|Video Courtesy of NTDTV |
In spite of a heavy police presence, between 50 and 100 activists arrived outside the courthouse on June 9 where Tan Zuoren, a Sichuan writer and environmental activist awaited an appeals hearing. Tan, 56, came to the defense of Sichuan earthquake victims, investigating and researching related details in the aftermath of the event.
Present were well-known activists, including artist Ai Weiwei, Chengdu Book Club member Chen Yunfei, and freelance writer Zhang Xianchi. Both Chen and Zhang were taken away by police shortly after their arrival.
Rendering a swift verdict, the Chengdu Municipal Intermediate People’s Court convened Tan’s hearing at 10 a.m. and within ten minutes delivered the decision to uphold a 5-year prison sentence, with a three year deprivation of political rights.
Tan’s wife and his defense attorney, Pu Zhiqiang, attended the hearing. Tan’s daughter, Li Chang, was barred from the courtroom. She was forcibly taken away by police while taking pictures outside the courthouse, and was released before 11 a.m.
Wilful misapplication of the law
“This is a disgrace to Chinese Justice,” Pu said during an interview with several overseas media. “It’s very sad. There’s no justification and it’s not right.”
Pu indicated that the judgement and verdict were highly specious, and based on false evidence and willful misapplication of the law. The trial process was not open and was conducted without respect for proper legal proceedings, he said.
Wang Qinghua, Tan’s wife, was present in the courtroom. She said “The verdict was what I had anticipated. I saw him today and his physical condition is good. Please rest assured.”
Police, conspicuous in plainclothes, were stationed outside the courthouse to drive away supporters. At one point the supporters clashed with police.
Mr. Feng, an eyewitness, said: “There were many police today—over one hundred of them. The police took away Chen Yunfei and two other supporters. Activists and human rights defenders in Chengdu City have all shown up to support [Tan Zuoren]. There were also many petitioners showing their support. There were over a hundred of them. There were three or four media conducting live interviews. The German Consulate staff also came to communicate with the defendant’s lawyer.”
Researching details of the Sichuan earthquake, Tan had extensively interviewed the parents of victims and collected data about the students who had perished.
In February 2009, he drafted the “May 12 Student File,” in which he proposed to the public that they investigate the construction quality of the buildings that had collapsed during the quake. (The name “Tofu-dregs buildings” was coined to refer to their sub-standard quality, a consequence of local officials pilfering public coffers.)
On March 28, 2009, Tan was arrested with the charge of “inciting subversion of state power.”
On Feb. 9, 2010, the Chengdu Municipal Intermediate People’s Court sentenced him to a 5-year imprisonment term with 3 years deprivation of political rights, in a hearing which lasted less than 5 minutes.
The court claimed that the charges against Tan were legitimate because he wrote an article commemorating victims of the June 4 Tiananmen massacre entitled, “Witness the Last Beauty,” publishing it on the “Fire of Liberty” website; he lobbied for voluntary blood donation for the earthquake-affected area, prior to the 20th anniversary of the Tiananmen Square massacre, thereby fomenting the spirit of June 4; he also gave a live interview with Sound of Hope Radio Network, a broadcaster detested by the regime, during the blood drive.
The verdict was based on allegations that Tan’s article distorted, slandered, and defamed how the communist leadership handled the June 4 crackdown, with the intention to incite opposition from both domestic and international groups towards the regime. Therefore, the charge of “inciting subversion of state power” was considered sufficient justification for upholding the existing sentence.
Read the original Chinese article