WELLINGTON, New Zealand (AP) - A Chinese official said Monday that New Zealand should consider special compensation to parents of Chinese students killed in an earthquake last month because their loss was magnified under the country's one-child policy.
Seven students from China have been identified among the 166 confirmed deaths in the quake that devastated Christchurch city on Feb. 22, and as many as 20 others are still missing.
Chinese Embassy official Cheng Lei said Monday that Chinese quake victims had lost not just their only child, but also a future breadwinner.
He said New Zealand should consider providing additional financial assistance to those families.
"You can expect how lonely, how desperate they are ... not only from losing loved ones, but losing almost entirely the major source of economic assistance after retirement," Cheng told Radio New Zealand.
Such compensation would be consolation for the families of the victims "but also a demonstration of the importance the New Zealand government attaches to the Chinese international" students, he said.
Prime Minister John Key said New Zealand had the greatest sympathy for the Chinese families and that they were eligible for compensation under an existing government accident insurance fund.
"The government's made it clear it will help in terms of repatriation of bodies and helping families so, outside of that, at this stage we don't have any intention to make any other changes," Key told reporters.
Key also confirmed on Monday that a planned government inquiry into the disaster would be a royal commission, a sub-judicial format that is the highest-level investigation New Zealand's parliamentary and justice system allows.
While the inquiry will be broad-ranging, Key said it would focus on the collapse of the Canterbury Television and Pyne Gould Guinness Corp. buildings in downtown Christchurch where many people died.
"We understand the need to provide answers about why such loss of life occurred in these buildings. The government is determined to get those," Key told a news conference.
The inquiry would thoroughly examine building codes and construction methods, and whether they were followed.
The inquiry will make a preliminary report within six months and deliver its final report within a year.