Millions of people in China and overseas observed three minutes of silence at 2:28 p.m. on Monday as they mourned the many killed in a deadly earthquake in Sichuan Province a week ago.
President Hu Jintao, top legislator Wu Bangguo, Premier Wen Jiabao, and other top leaders including Jia Qinglin, Li Changchun, Xi Jinping, He Guoqiang and Zhou Yongkang also stood in silence in the central government compound of Zhongnanhai in Beijing.
The leaders, dressed in dark suits and wearing white paper flowers on their chests, bowed their heads in solemn silence below a national flag flying at half staff. Former President Jiang Zemin also stood in silence, separately.
The remembrance was part of a highly unusual three-day national period of mourning for those who died in the 8.0-magnitude earthquake.
The quake is known to have killed at least 32,000 people, but officials have said that the final toll could exceed 50,000.
Across the country, sirens and horns wailed; people fell silent. China Central Television darkened its screen. In the headquarters of the Beijing Organizing Committee for the Olympic Games, more than 200 employees gathered in front of their office building, facing southwest, towards Sichuan, in a silent tribute.
In Tian'anmen square, thousands of people shouted "Go, Go, China!" "Brave and strong, China!" and "Brave and Strong, Wenchuan!” "Hang on, Sichuan!"
Wenchuan County was the epicenter of quake on May 12.
Financial markets suspended trading for three minutes. Some traders said people had asked about buying stocks of Sichuan-based companies to show support.
PRAYERS FOR SALVATION
Across the country, people honored the quake dead in various ways; some flew black kites and some held chrysanthemums. Children stood holding lit white candles, and villagers in China's remote northwest burnt incense sticks and paper money to see off the dead.
In front of the Potala Palace in Lhasa, capital of Tibet, residents mourned in the rain, and Lamaists prostrated themselves while saying prayers for the deceased.
"I saw the calamity of the earthquake in TV, and I pray for the people who died and hope those living are strong and hold on," said Ama Cering, a ethnic Tibetan woman.
MOMENT OF SILENCE IN BATTERED SICHUAN
In battered Sichuan, green-uniformed soldiers and rescuers in orange suits paused briefly for the mourning, joined by rescue forces from Japan, Russia, the Republic of Korea and Singapore.
"When the siren sounded, I felt a sudden shudder. I feel deeply sorry for those dead brothers," said Pu Taihua, a rescuer in Beichuan, tears mixing with sweat on his face.
Although rescuers are being challenged by the rugged terrain and aftershocks in Sichuan, more than 100,000 soldiers and rescuers are still battling to search for buried survivors.
The quake victims, who are clinging to hope that their relatives have somehow survived, also took time to join the mourning.
In Beichuan County, one of the worst-hit areas in Sichuan, surviving students, wearing white T-shirts, stood with their heads deeply bowed. Some of them had been orphaned by the earthquake.
In Anxian County, also hit hard, more than 1,800 homeless residents gathered on open ground for the remembrance. Peng Hao, a boy who lost his father, wrapped himself in his dad's blanket and wailed plaintively with his mother.
In the Tianpeng Middle School in Pengzhou City, Sichuan, thousands of people gathered on the playground. An eerie silence was broken by cries from the crowd after a baby, Dong Chengyuan, began to wail in the arms of his grandmother.
The baby, whose grandfather died in the quake, wore a black armband that read "mourning" in Chinese.
Baby Dong's mother, Chen Jiao, said the family had cried all their tears. "When I found my dad, he was crushed by two beams, one on his neck and another on his feet. His body was almost disfigured," said Chen.
After the memorial, residents wandered around the playground, reluctant to leave.
WOUNDS WILL HEAL
From herdsmen and hearing-impaired children to elderly survivors of the deadly 1976 Tangshan earthquake, from bus drivers in Beijing to barter traders along the China-Russia border in Manzhouli, grieving Chinese are rallying against the disaster.
"My best friend died in the earthquake, but wounds will heal, homes will be rebuilt and everything will be all right," said Zhang Xiaomei, a student in the Yinghua Middle School in Deyang City.
On Monday, a downtown square in Chengdu was crammed with thousands of people who shouted "Go, Sichuan!" "Go China!" amid tears.
"The people in Sichuan are not alone. The whole China of is supporting them," said Ma Guoxi, a student in Ningxia University.
Mark Hancock, an Australian teacher in Qinghai, joined hundreds of Chinese mourners in a downtown square in Xining, capital of Qinghai Province.
"It's been a terrible catastrophe for China, for the Chinese people," he said, struggling to hold back tears. "It's a time for China to demonstrate its enormous strength to overcome the tragedy, and people all over the world are with them and supporting them," he added.
"The earthquake took away people's lives, but it will not frighten the brave Chinese people into retreat. We will get over the hardships and a stronger China will have a better future," said He Bin, a police officer of the Anhui Provincial Public Security Department.
President Hu Jintao, standing atop the rubble amid aftershocks on Sunday, said through loudspeakers to the soldiers in the quake-hit Shifang City: "I truly believe that the heroic Chinese people will not yield to any difficulty!"
Chinese president pays silent tribute to earthquake victims
BEIJING, May 19 (Xinhua) -- Chinese President Hu Jintao on Monday afternoon paid a three-minute silent tribute to victims of the May 12 earthquake in the central government compound of Zhongnanhai in Beijing. Full story
Chinese embassy to U.S. mourn earthquake victims
WASHINGTON, May 19 (Xinhua) -- Chinese embassy to the United States on Monday held a solemn ceremony to mourn the victims of the May 12 earthquake in southwest China, which claimed more than 32,000 lives. Full story
Chinese diplomatic missions mourn quake victims
BEIJING, May 19 (Xinhua) -- Chinese diplomatic missions across the world started mourning victims of the May 12 earthquake in Sichuan province at 2:28 p.m. Monday Beijing time (0628 GMT) as national flags flew at half-mast, exactly one week after the powerful tremor struck. Full story
China's FM opens condolence book for foreign diplomats to mourn for quake victims
BEIJING, May 19 (Xinhua) -- China's Foreign Ministry opened a condolence book on Monday morning for foreign diplomats to mourn for those who died in the May-12 earthquake in Sichuan Province.
(Xinhua News Agency May 19, 2008)