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Activist sentenced to 5 years in prison for earthquake probe

February 12, 2010

February 10, 2010

Dharamsala, Feb. 10 - The Chengdu Municipal
Intermediate People’s Court has sentenced a
Sichuan-based writer and environmental activist
to a five-year prison term and three years’
deprivation of political rights, according New
York based Human Rights in China.

Tan Zuoren was accused of "inciting subversion of
state power." Citing a source, HRIC says police
led Tan away after the court hearing as he
shouted, “It is my honor to go to prison for the
people of my hometown”. Tan’s family said they will appeal to a higher court.

Tan was the editor-in-chief of "Wenhua Ren"
magazine. After the Sichuan earthquake, he and
Xie Yihui conducted a nearly three-month
investigation by interviewing families who lost
their children in the collapsed schools. They
published their findings in an online report
titled “Independent Investigative Report By
Citizens," in which they criticized the
government for not conducting a thorough
investigation into the causes of the collapse of
the schools and for under-reporting the number of
victims. Tan was detained on March 28, 2009,
three days after the publication of the report.

The court’s indictment, however, did not mention
Tan’s earthquake investigation or its findings as
constituting "incitement to subvert state power.”
Instead, it listed as evidence a 2007 article
that Tan wrote about the 1989 Democracy Movement,
a proposal for a blood drive to commemorate the
20th anniversary of the government’s crackdown on
the 1989 Democracy Movement, and interviews that
Tan gave to foreign media about the 2008 earthquake, HRIC alleges.

Tan Zuoren, was first tried on August 12, 2009
but the court did not reach any decision. Well
known artist Ai Weiwei had travelled from Beijing
to Chengdu to attend the trial as a witness for
Tan but beaten by Chengdu police and detained in his hotel room for 11 hours.

"Yet again, a Chinese citizen is punished for
exercising his right to freedom of expression,"
said Sharon Hom, executive director of Human
Rights in China. “Tan Zuoren’s conviction and
sentence remind us once again that the Chinese
government continues to refuse to take
responsibility for its actions during the June
Fourth crackdown and for the corruption that led
to the deaths of innocent children."

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