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China Blocks a Memorial Service to Sichuan Earthquake Victims

May 11, 2018

“This is our shared pain, shared trauma, and is also our shared memory,” Mr. Wang had written in an announcement about the memorial service published on Thursday on the church’s Facebook page. “Although man-made calamity has overshadowed natural disaster, grace is greater than evil. May the Lord Jesus Christ grant healing on our souls, and grant true hope on this land.”

Mr. Wang, 44, has argued that churches should not be answerable to the state. His church is one of a number in China that have resisted government oversight, opting for a tenuous independence, often moving premises and risking closure.

This year, Mr. Wang was among the few prominent Chinese voices to condemn the elimination of presidential term limits.

China Blocks a Memorial Service to Sichuan Earthquake VictimsChina Blocks a Memorial Service to Sichuan Earthquake Victims

Despite Mr. Wang’s release, the size of the police operation highlighted how raw memories of the 2008 earthquake remain in Sichuan.

Foreign reporters covering the anniversary have described being warned away by nervous officials. Grieving parents who have kept demanding that the government give a fuller accounting of why their children’s schools collapsed in the quake have endured surveillance, warnings and detentions.

The government estimated that around 69,000 people died in the quake, whose epicenter was in Wenchuan County, mostly from collapsed buildings and landslides. Another 18,000 went missing and were most likely killed. It was China’s worst earthquake since 1975, when nearly 250,000 people were killed around Tangshan in the country’s north.

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