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Wen Speaks on Relief, Rehabilitation in China's Quake-hit Areas

The successful earthquake relief efforts fully proved, once again, the superiority of the socialist system, the governing capacity of the Communist Party of China (CPC) and the government, the abilities of the People's Liberation Army, and the strength of the Chinese nation.

Premier Wen Jiabao made these comments at a meeting on quake rehabilitation in Sichuan Province, southwest China, early this month.

The promotion of rehabilitation and economic and social development in areas devastated by the May 12 earthquake are an "arduous and responsible task" with "far-reaching importance," said Wen, who is also member of the Standing Committee of the CPC Central Committee Political Bureau.

He called for closely uniting around the CPC Central Committee with Hu Jintao as the general secretary to achieve new victories in the rebuilding efforts.

In his lengthy speech, Wen recalled the quake relief efforts since May 12, when an 8.0-magnitude tremor shook Sichuan, Gansu and Shaanxi provinces, leaving more than 80,000 dead and missing and millions homeless.

China had achieved a major victory in quake relief and minimized losses from the disaster, Wen said.

According to the premier, rescuers dug out 84,000 survivors from the ruins, moved more than 1.486 million people to safer places and gave medical treatment to 2.96 million injured people. Another 96,000 were sent to hospitals, of whom more than 92,000 were treated and discharged.

The government has provided financial aid to 10.584 million people who had financial problems due to the quake, including 286,000 orphans, elderly and handicapped people living alone. It had resettled 15.1 million people whose houses were damaged or whose neighborhoods became dangerous due to the earthquake.

In the first three months after the quake, the government distributed 500 grams of grain and 10 yuan (about US$1.47) for every quake survivor every day in financial difficulty. In the next three months, the government will continue financial aid to these people, including 200 yuan per person and 600 yuan for those living alone every month.

The government will also pay 5,000 yuan to the families of the deceased.

The government has tried various means to provide temporary housing for survivors, ensure local schools reopen on time and safeguard stability in the quake areas, according to the premier.

Meanwhile, most of the infrastructure in the area has been repaired and restored to normal operation, including all major railways, 90 percent of the power transmission lines, all public telecommunications services, the majority of local radio and TV networks, local water conservation facilities, and 97 percent of water plants and water-supply pipelines, which had ensured the supply of drinking water.

Strenuous efforts were made to prevent or minimize geological disasters caused by the quake, such as the successful treatment of "quake lakes".

Wen said the government had set up a quake rehabilitation fund and had allocated 70 billion yuan for its use in 2008. The State Council (cabinet) had issued a series of financial policies for rehabilitation.

Meanwhile, the government had published a plan on the rehabilitation of 18 badly-hit counties and towns in Sichuan and quake areas in Gansu and Shaanxi provinces, with assistance of 19 provinces and municipalities.

Wen disclosed that China had received 59.27 billion yuan from domestic and overseas donors, while more than 42.85 million CPC members had donated 9.04 billion yuan for relief and rehabilitation, in the name of "special membership charges".

In his speech, the premier pledged to carry out the rehabilitation in accordance with the law and work out scientific plans for rehabilitation of the quake areas.

Shortly after the quake, the State Council issued "Provisions on Rehabilitation After the Wenchuan Earthquake". Recently, the cabinet approved a general plan and 10 specific plans for rehabilitation.

Wen praised the media for its coverage of relief efforts, which had shown the power of the Chinese people and generated strong support from the international community.

The premier went on to say that China had entered the rehabilitation phase in the quake areas, and the CPC Central Committee and the State Council had made comprehensive arrangements for rehabilitation.

The general plan for rehabilitation will soon be implemented, said Wen, who called for determination to win the hard battle of rehabilitation.

He said it would take up to three years to complete the rehabilitation program and ensure that living conditions and economic development in the region would reach or surpass pre-quake levels.

There will be homes and jobs for each household and social security for everyone, Wen said. He pledged to improve the local infrastructure and the economy and environment in the quake areas.

The government will work hard to ensure people's living conditions in the area, especially warm housing and food supply during the winter and the normal operation of local schools.

He also asked for medical and psychological aid for survivors and urged local governments to ensure public security and social stability.

On housing, Wen pledged to have those left homeless in new houses by the end of 2009. The central government will subsidize house rebuilding, he noted.

The rebuilding of houses and public utilities should be integrated with the new countryside development, while the reconstruction of historic towns and villages should be combined with the preservation of their historic style, Wen said.

He called for stepped-up efforts to rebuild public facilities and infrastructure, saying it will be a long-term job. Preference should be given to rebuilding schools and hospitals, stressing the importance of quality, to make these buildings the safest, strongest and most satisfactory to the public.

Wen highlighted the issue of employment in the quake areas, saying that to rebuild local industries was a fundamental necessity for developing the local economy, increasing employment and safeguarding social stability.

Local companies should try hard to restore their capacity and attract companies from other parts of the country to participate in the merger and reorganization of local companies, Wen said. He also urged local people to work hard to restore agricultural production and tourism.

The premier called for further efforts to prevent secondary disasters caused by the quake and further strengthen the region's capacity to fight natural disasters, by repairing damaged infrastructure and raising public awareness of disaster prevention.

Efforts should also be made to enhance disaster prevention, especially for schools and hospitals as well as transport and power networks. The building of public shelters should be included in urban and rural plans by the government.

He called for setting up more emergency rescue teams and including education on disaster prevention for students, factory workers, villages and families.

The premier also pledged to rebuild the environment and promote the coordinated development of the economy, the population and resources. The monitoring and managerial network for the environment should be rebuilt, Wen said.

Efforts should be made to handle pollutants in the quake areas, and land that was used for temporary housing or rescue programs should be returned to cultivation, according to the premier.

At the end of his speech, Wen urged local governments and relevant central government departments to implement the central policies for the rehabilitation. All the information concerned will be made transparent to the public, he stressed.

The government will compile a list of persons who were confirmed dead or listed as missing in the quake, and it will be published in the local media, according to Wen.

He urged local authorities to take responsibility for rehabilitation and ensure all work is done on time and as per requirements for quality and quantity.

He stressed the tradition of "Self-reliance and Hard Work" of the CPC and the Chinese people. He urged people to be thrifty and diligent in the rehabilitation.

All government funds will be distributed to the quake areas in time and in sufficient quantity, he said, adding that a "green channel" will be used to handle urgent matters concerning the rehabilitation.

(Xinhua News Agency September 16, 2008)

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Wen Speaks on Relief, Rehabilitation in China's Quake-hit Areas

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