To see parents in China protesting openly and vehemently that their children shouldn't have died in the May 12 earthquake in Sichuan province evokes several emotions.

The first emotion is sympathy, in understanding the devastation of losing a child under any circumstances.

Second, you share the parents' anger in pointing out that many of the estimated 10,000 children who died were crushed in shoddily built schools, while adults in nearby but much better built government buildings survived.

Then there's amazement that the parents are even being allowed to vent publicly in China, a nation that for plenty of Americans still brings to mind the brutal repression of democracy demonstrators at Tiananmen Square in 1989.

And then you feel envy. Why envy? Because unlike those U.S. public officials who tried to dodge responsibility for their shoddy performance after Hurricane Katrina, some Chinese officials are actually accepting blame for the young earthquake victims' deaths.

The New York Times ran a photo Wednesday of a remorseful Chinese Communist Party boss on his knees asking parents of children killed in the earthquake to stop their protest. Wouldn't it have been nice to see Federal Emergency Management Agency head Michael Brown on his knees apologizing after Katrina?

China's leniency toward the protesting parents may be more of its trying to burnish its image before hosting the Olympics. Still, it's welcome.