China falls silent for victims of quake

THOUSANDS of officials, soldiers and civilians yesterday bowed their heads in silent tribute as ceremonies were held across China to mourn the 2,064 victims killed in a devastating quake that hit one week ago in a remote Tibetan region.

Conspicuously absent from all the televised ceremonies were any Tibetan Buddhist monks. The monks, thousands of whom poured into the quake zone from surrounding areas to help, said yesterday they had been ordered to leave the region – an apparent sign of the Communist Party's unease over the leading role they played in the relief effort.

At the quake's epicentre in Yushu County in western Qinghai province, hundreds of rescue workers, residents and children in school uniforms stood quietly for a nationally televised ceremony with rubble from destroyed buildings behind them.

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Red Chinese flags flew at half-mast as the blaring of horns and sirens from cars, police vehicles and ambulances sounded in the background after three minutes of silence that began at 10am.

Qiang Wei, Communist Party secretary for Qinghai province, called on people to unite and rebuild in the wake of the quake, which also left more than 12,000 people injured.

In Beijing, president Hu Jintao, and other Chinese leaders, led a silent tribute "to express our profound condolences" during a Politburo meeting.