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"I believe that to meet the challenges of our times, human beings will have to develop a greater sense of universal responsibility. It is the foundation for world peace."

EU urges China to release convicted dissident

June 15, 2010

BRUSSELS – The European Union on Friday condemned the five-year prison sentence for a Chinese dissident, Tan Zuoren, saying his conviction for subversion violated his freedom of speech and international standards of fairness.

The EU said it "deeply regrets" that "international calls for the reopening of the case have been ignored" and urged Beijing to release Tan unconditionally.

This week, the Sichuan provincial high court upheld Tan's five-year prison term for subversion stemming from his investigation into the deaths of children crushed in their schools during the 2008 Sichuan earthquake.

He was sentenced in February on the vaguely defined charge of inciting subversion of state power.

The denial of his appeal showed the Chinese government's determination to suppress questions about why so many schools collapsed during the quake, which killed 90,000 people.

According to official figures, almost 7,000 classrooms collapsed, killing 5,335 students, but the government has refused to respond to complaints that many schools were poorly constructed and lacked emergency exits and other basic safety features.

Tan conducted his own investigation into 64 schools flattened by the 7.9 magnitude temblor, which struck a wide swath of mountainous southwestern China and the Tibetan plateau.

He estimated more than 5,600 students died or were missing.

Complaints over school construction emerged after classrooms collapsed even as government offices and other buildings nearby remained intact.

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