Chinese Embassy Honors Those Lost in Quake

The Chinese embassy in Phnom Penh opened its doors Monday for mourners to pay their respects to the tens of thousands who died in last week’s devastating earthquake in Sichuan province, China.

Ambassadors, Chinese expatriates and Chinese-Khmers alike bowed their heads in prayer and donated money at the embassy on Mao Tse Tung Boulevard.

The embassy will also be open to the public from 9 to 11 am and 4 to 4:30 pm Tuesday and Wednesday, as local Chinese officials take part in three days of Chinese government-declared mourning.

Many of the visitors who came Monday also marked the exact minute the quake hit—1:28 pm local time—by participating in a three-minute period of silence.

“When we heard the news, we were very sad,” said Zhai Xue Shu, general-manager at a Chinese electricity company where a half-dozen employees took time away from their jobs to visit the embassy.

“We donate because we hope the people get better very soon,” he said somberly, surrounded by his staff.

Ambassadors from Cuba, Russia and Germany were among those who expressed condolences to Chi­nese Ambassador Zhang Jinfeng.

Nearly $300,000 has been collected from the general public, said Qian Hai, an embassy spokesman.

Government donations have also poured in. Retired King Norodom Sihanouk has donated $50,000, Prime Minister Hun Sen donated $100,000 and the Cambodian Red Cross donated $10,000, said Chi­nese officials and government spokesman and Information Mini­ster Khieu Kanharith.

Those funds will “as soon as possible be sent directly to the suffering people,” and pay for food and medicine, said Duan Jin Zhu, the Chi­nese embassy’s political counselor.

China’s mourning period in­cludes the lowering of flags to half-mast, here and at Chinese embass­ies around the world, Qian Hai said. The Olympic Torch Relay has also been temporarily suspended.

As of Monday afternoon, the death toll from the 7.9-magnitude quake stood at 34,073 dead, and more than 245,000 injured, according to China’s news service Xinhua.

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