U.S. Resolution Supports Rights of Sichuan Earthquake Activists

November 9, 2009 Updated: November 11, 2009

A year and a half after the tragedy of the May 12, 2008 Sichuan earthquake, victims and activists seeking answers and redress continue to be silenced and persecuted in China, according to a new House Resolution.

Congressman David Wu (D-OR) presented House Resolution 877 (H.R. 877) Friday in support of jailed Sichuan earthquake activists Huang Qi and Tan Zuoren, calling on the Chinese regime to abide by its own constitution.

According to official figures, more than 5,000 school children of a total 70,000 were killed in the earthquake. Critics claim however, 10,000 children perished when 12,000 schools collapsed. Under the one child policy in China, many parents lost their only child in the earthquake.

“As a parent, my heart goes out to the parents whose children were killed in the Sichuan earthquake when their school buildings crumbled around them,” Congressman Wu said on the floor of the House of Representatives, according to a press release.

“It is an abomination when the act of asking questions about one’s child’s death leads to harassment or persecution by one’s own government,” he added.

Wu’s House Resolution 877 offers support to activists Huang Qi and Tan Zuoren, who have been jailed for advocating an investigation into the causes of the devastating losses.

Huang Qi is the founder of a human rights advocacy Web site Tianwang Human Rights Center (link 64tianwang.com). After the Sichuan earthquake struck, he visited the site of the tragedy and subsequently posted articles about the grievances of parents of the victims of the quake. On July 10, 2008, he was arrested by plainclothes police and jailed for “illegally possessing state secrets,” according to the text of the resolution. Huang Qi is reported to be in poor health and denied medical treatment.

Writer and environmental activist Tan Zuoren visited parents and compiled a list of 2,000 victims of the earthquake, according to a report by Voice of America. Locals pointed to state corruption in the “tofu constructions,” which used substandard materials. After authorities failed to give distraught families answers or redress, Tan published a report in March of 2009 criticizing the officials. He was detained three days later.

Both Huang Qi and Tan Zuoren were jailed for advocating on behalf of families of the victims seeking transparency and denied their right to an open, fair trial, according to the resolution. Witnesses were held hostage and prevented from testifying on the activists’ behalf; supporters and reporters were denied entrance into the courtroom and parents of victims were detained.

As judgments have not been passed for Huang and Tan’s cases, Congressman Wu’s resolution with 176 cosponsors urges support for their rights as Chinese citizens. H.R. 877 calls on the Chinese Communist regime to follow its own constitution, Criminal Procedure Law, and the April 2009 National Human Rights Action Plan, to guarantee citizens rights to freedom of speech and association “free from suppression and retaliation,” a fair trial, and the right to investigate causes of the Sichuan earthquake without “harassment and official interference.”