Sichuan Quake Rights Activist Sentenced to Five Years

February 11, 2010 Updated: October 1, 2015

Sichuan environmentalist and writer Tan Zuoren was sentenced to five years for investigating shoddy 'tofu' school buildings that collapsed during the massive Sichuan earthquake in 2008. (
Sichuan environmentalist and writer Tan Zuoren was sentenced to five years for investigating shoddy 'tofu' school buildings that collapsed during the massive Sichuan earthquake in 2008. (
A 55 year-old Sichuan man, Tan Zuoren, has been sentenced to five years in jail plus three years deprivation of political rights by the Chengdu Intermediate Court. This conviction for inciting subversion of state power comes after his arrest while probing into the details of the shoddy “tofu waste” school buildings’ as revealed through the 2008 Sichuan earthquake. Mr. Tan’s legal counsel and wife plan to appeal.

The trial started at 9:30 a.m. and lasted for five minutes, in which Mr. Tan’s wife and two daughters were not allowed to enter the courtroom. Additionally, the over 200 supporters from Qinghai, Hunan, Beijing and other cities gathered outside the court were dispersed by local Chengdu police.

Before the trial, journalists from Hong Kong and Taiwan, attempting to conduct interviews, were interfered with by local police and had their cell phones taken away and not returned until video footage inside had been deleted.

Pu Zhiqiang, Mr. Tan’s defense lawyer, told The Epoch Times, “He was indicted for two reasons; one is for his publishing an article called “Witness The Last Beauty” to commemorate the 1989 Tiananmen Square massacre on Another is because he suggested a blood donations campaign for the Sichuan earthquake victims in Tiananmen Square to keep the June 4th spirit alive and was interviewed by Sound of Hope radio station.” According to Pu, Beijing authorities regard those activities as hazardous to its power, so he was charged with the crime of “inciting subversion of state power.”

Democracy activist Chen Yunfei and Chengdu writer Ran Yunfei, both of whom had previously expressed support for Mr. Tan, were under house arrest and unable to attend the trial.

Mr. Ran derided the sentence as “ridiculous,” yet unsurprising, given that the authorities “are capable of doing anything.” At the same time, he said “I cannot accept this kind of outcome at all.”

Mr. Chen said that “By now, I have understood that Beijing’s politicians are not ignorant of the law, which I had thought they were before. Actually, they are extremely shameful, based on this trial.”

Over ten Hong Kong citizens protested Tan’s illegal imprisonment at the Liaison Office of the Central People's Government in Hong Kong, calling for official permission for Mr. Tan to return home during the Chinese New Year.

After the Sichuan earthquake in May 2008, Mr. Tan arrived at stricken areas to collect data on student deaths before he was arrested on March 28.

Mr. Tan drafted a document titled “5.12 Earthquake Student Victims Files” last February, calling for engineering quality survey of school building damaged by earthquake in Sichuan. The document reads, in part: ”It is necessary to confirm the real information of each dead student in every class of every school in every town, every county and every region.” He was also one of the many who argued that the collapsed school buildings were caused by government corruption, known to be endemic in the Chinese Communist Party.

Before the trial, well-known artist Ai Weiwei, who had planned to testify for Mr. Tan, was reportedly assaulted by Chengdu police. During the trial Mr. Tan’s lawyers were repeatedly interrupted by the court while trying to make their defense statements. Three witnesses were also stopped from testifying.

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