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Activist Tan Zuoren Sentenced to Five Years in Prison for Inciting Subversion

(ChineseHuman Rights Defenders- February 9, 2010) TanZuoren (谭作人),human rights activist and environmentalist, wassentenced today to five years in prison with an additional three years’deprivation of political rights for “inciting subversion of statepower” inChengdu, Sichuan. According to his lawyer Pu Zhiqiang (浦志强),the court convicted Tan for attempting to organize commemorativeactivities forthe 20th anniversary of the June 4th, 1989 crackdown on thepro-democracy movement, though many believe that Tan was punished forconducting investigations into student deaths in the 2008 Sichuanearthquake. Tanhas indicated that he will appeal.“Thispunishment is both harsh and unfair,” said ReneeXia, CHRD’s International Director. “Tan’s sentence is a powerfulstatement ofintolerance from a regime which is becoming increasingly hostiletowards humanrights defenders.”TheChengdu Intermediate Court announced the verdictin a hearing which lasted less than 5 minutes. Among the crowd ofaround one hundredoutside the courthouse were supporters of Tan’s, members of the ChineseandHong Kong media, and officials from the US embassy, along with a heavypolicepresence. Tan’s wife, Wang Qinghua (王庆华),was not allowed toenter the courtroom to attend the sentencing; other local activists,includingXie Yihui (谢贻卉)and Chen Yunfei (陈云飞),were prevented from traveling to the courthouse.PuZhiqiang addressed the crowd following thesentencing and stated that the verdict did not mention Tan's earthquakeinvestigation. According to Pu, the court declared that Tan’s “crime”involvedposting articles online about the 20th anniversary of theJune 4thmassacre, as well as corresponding and conducting interviews with“hostileforeign forces” such as the exiled student leader Wang Dan (王丹).Tan’sarrest in March 2009 came as he was in themidst of working on his investigative report into student deaths in theearthquake, and according to a prosecution letter dated July 17, theProcuratorate’s evidence against Tan included speaking with foreignjournalistsabout the May 12 Sichuan Earthquake. Clearly his work in Sichuan playeda rolein his arrest and charge. For the court to now omit this completelyindicates thatauthorities are seeking to avoid the issue in hopes of dampening thereactionfrom the domestic and international community. Tan’s sentence could nothavebeen so harsh if it were purely based on his exchanges with overseasdissidents.Regardless, Tan’s actions were well within his rights as a Chinesecitizen anddeserve full legal protection.CHRDbelieves that Tan Zuoren has been detained,convicted, and sentenced to prison for expressing his opinions aboutthecrackdown on the 1989 democracy movement and for investigating studentdeathsin the 2008 Sichuan earthquake. By prosecuting Tan for his expressionand nonviolentactions, the Chinese government has violated its own Constitution, theInternational Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, as well as the2009-2010Chinese National Human Rights Action Plan, which promises to protectbothcitizens’ right to free expression and information as well as citizens’rightto supervise the government. CHRDcalls for the immediate release of Tan Zuoren.The Chinese government must end the suppression of efforts toinvestigate thedeaths of thousands of children in collapsed school buildings duringtheSichuan earthquake, and of parents seeking redress for the loss oftheirchildren. BackgroundTan,based in Chengdu, Sichuan Province, is a localactivist. After the Sichuan earthquake, Tan published a number ofcommentaries onlinewhich were critical of the government. In February 2009, Tan released aproposal calling on netizens to travel to Sichuan Province to compile alist ofstudents who died in the earthquake and to investigate the quality ofcollapsedschool buildings, as well as to assist parents of these children intheir fightfor justice. Tan had hoped to finish his investigation by the firstanniversaryof the earthquake. However, he was taken into police custody on March28, 2009.MediaContacts for this Release:ReneeXia, International Director (English andMandarin): +852 8191 6937Jiang Yingying, Researcher (English and Mandarin): +852 8170 0237Formore information, please see:“ChengduPolice and CourtFlout Law in ‘Truly Disgraceful’ Trial of Tan Zuoren,” August 13, 2009, “Police BarPublic from Attending Trial of Earthquake Investigator Tan Zuoren”,August 12,2009,“OneYear after Earthquake, Silence Imposed onSchoolchildren Deaths, Activists Harassed,” May 5, 2009, results of the investigationconducted by Tan and his partner, Xie Yihui (谢贻卉),<谭作人等人就地震死难学生的调查报告>,April 27, 2009, “SichuanActivist Detained before EarthquakeAnniversary”, April 1, 2009, /Article/Class9/Class10/200904/20090401142033_14615.html “ABrief CV of Tan Zuoren” (in Chinese), /Article/Class18/tanzuoren/200905/20090501230753_15228.html“‘IncitingSubversion of State Power:’ A Legal Toolfor Prosecuting Free Speech in China,” January 8, 2008,“OurChildren,” a documentary film about efforts toinvestigate student deaths in the Sichuan earthquake:“LaomaTihua,” a documentary film about theexperience of witnesses detained during Tan Zuoren’s trial:

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