Last Monday during my Environmental Law class we paused at 2:28PM to join people throughout China in observing three minutes of silence in memory of the victims of the Wenchuan earthquake. Everyone stood and bowed their heads as sirens and horns blared outside throughout the three minutes. After class the students surprised me by presenting me with birthday cards they had made for me. The cards included wonderful, personal notes each student had written to me. The students explained that they would like to have a party to celebrate my birthday, but that it was not possible to hold a party during the three-day national mourning period.
On Tuesday I flew from Beijing to Yichang in Hubei province near the site of the Three Gorges Dam. On Wednesday I traveled by bus to the dam site and then boarded a hydrofoil from a dock behind the dam to travel west through the Three Gorges. The area is quite beautiful with dramatic cliffs on both sides of the river in many places. However, because the dam required relocation of nearly two million people, the scenery throughout the trip is marred by the scars of buildings abandoned to the rising waters. East of the town of Badong, smoke from cement plants pours along the river gorge, obscuring the view of the scenery for many miles. I disembarked from the hydrofoil in Wanzhou where I boarded an express bus for Chongqing. The entire trip from the dam to Chongqing took 9 hours.
In Chongqing I was met by Professor Shen from the Southwest University School of Law. On Thursday morning I lectured to his class on the history of the common law. I then met the dean and vice dean of the law school before delivering public lectures on “The Emergence of Global Environmental Law” and “The Role of Non-governmental Organizations in the Implementation and Enforcement of Regulatory Programs.” Between 50 and 60 students attended each lecture, which was followed by a lively discussion with the audience on a wide range of topics.
Because Chongqing is near the earthquake zone, the students at Southwest University were particularly interested in hearing about how people in the U.S. are reacting to the earthquake. The students had established their own memorial to the earthquake victims by tying hundreds of red ribbons to shrubbery on campus. The school erected billboards with information about the history of earthquakes in China and advice on what to do in the event of an earthquake. A crowd of students clustered around a giant outdoor flat screen that carried continuous news coverage concerning earthquake relief and recovery efforts. Photos of my trip through Three Gorges and the visit to Chongqing are available online at: http://gallery.mac.com/rperci/100264.