Sichuan gears up publicity machine amid parents' protests The Sichuan government has gone on the offensive, denying responsibility for the collapse of shoddy school buildings in the May 12 earthquake amid widespread anger among bereaved parents who lost children. Major Sichuan newspapers have published reports on their front pages quoting experts who denied that poorly built buildings were at least partly responsible for the large number of students killed. The experts were attending a seminar at the Chengdu Academy of Social Sciences. Laying all the blame on the natural disaster, the reports quoted Gao Yongzhao, a vice-president of the Sichuan Institute of Building Research, as saying it was impossible to determine just by collecting samples of the debris whether the buildings had collapsed because safety rules were flouted. The vice-president of Tsinghua University's law school, Zhou Guangquan, and Peking University law professor Chen Xingliang were quoted as saying it would be difficult to charge or convict a person for the collapse of school buildings in the earthquake. Press releases containing the quotes appeared to have been provided to Sichuan newspapers by the province's publicity department, and mainland reporters said their publication indicated that the government would not be likely to hold officials responsible for the flimsy schools despite the simmering anger across the disaster zone. The campaign is only part of the effort by the government to keep the lid on the school scandal. Since early this month, volunteers and journalists have been barred from areas hardest hit by the quake. Foreign reporters covering protests by parents have been detained or chased by police, many of them drawn from special police units from outside Sichuan. Soon after the quake, Beijing banned mention of the condition of the schools in domestic news reports. Many volunteers have also been forced to leave areas where the questionable schools were located, such as Muyu town of Qingchuan county and the city of Mianzhu . But protest slogans and wreaths remained prominent there. A volunteer in Mianyang said: 'Local officials don't have the guts to remove the wreaths as the parents may defend them with their lives.' The parents said the crackdown could not reduce their anger and demand for justice. Xia Gaozhen , 36, from Yingxiu county , said a dozen parents whose children had been killed at Yingxiu Primary School protested to the government this week. A mother who lost her 12-year-old daughter in the quake said teachers had cautioned parents before the earthquake that the school building was unsafe. A villager from Xuanping town in Beichuan said several hundred Beichuan residents had protested to the Mianyang government about the shoddy condition of the local kindergarten and middle school about 10 days before the quake, but were given the cold shoulder. 'The generation from three to 20 is missing because most of them died in the schools,' he said. 'Of course the schools are jerry-built.'