Skip to main content
Amnesty International UK
Log in

Police Bar Public from Attending Trial of Earthquake Investigator Tan Zuoren

shabby building video 


(Chinese Human Rights Defenders, August 12, 2009)-- Tan Zuoren (谭作人),a Sichuan activist detained for “inciting subversion of state power”,was tried today by the Chengdu City Intermediate People’s Court inSichuan Province. The trial was practically closed to the public.

The trial started at 10am and concluded at 12:15pm. Tan’s lawyers, Pu Zhiqiang (浦志强) and Xia Lin (夏霖), of Beijing Huayi Law Firm, defended him. Tan pleaded not guilty and the court is yet to announce the verdict. 

Aboutfive hundred activists, dissidents, victims of the May 2008 Sichuanearthquake, friends and supporters arrived at the court demanding toattend the trial. However, about a hundred policemen were stationedoutside the court barring access to the courtroom. Tan’s brotherarrived but was whisked away by the policemen present. The crowd wastold by the police that they could not attend the trial because theydid not possess the required pass, even though they had asked the courtdays earlier and were told that such pass would not be necessary. Anumber of well-known activists, such as the architect Ai Weiwei (艾未未),were intercepted en route to the court or prevented from leaving theirresidences. Tan’s wife, daughter, and head of Chengdu Reading Club, aprogressive informal group to which Tan belongs, were the only familyand friend allowed to attend the trial.


Tan,based in Chengdu, Sichuan Province, is a local activist. After theSichuan earthquake, Tan published online a number of commentariescritical of the government. In February 2009, Tan released a proposalcalling on internet volunteers to travel to Sichuan Province to compilea list of students who died in the earthquake and to investigate thequality of school buildings which collapsed and the treatment ofparents whose children died in the earthquake. Tan had hoped to finishhis investigation by the first anniversary of the earthquake. However,he was taken into police custody on March 28.

Itis believed that Tan is punished for his independent investigation intothe earthquake deaths. According to a prosecution letter dated July 17,the Procuratorate’s evidence against Tan includes speaking with foreignjournalists about the May 12 Sichuan Earthquake. Tan is also beingprosecuted for organizing activities to commemorate the 20thanniversary of the Tiananmen Massacre, posted online articles about itand corresponded and conducted interviews about the massacre with“hostile foreign forces” such as the exiled student leader Wang Dan (王丹) and the Voice of Hope.

TheChinese government has repeatedly asserted that the students died as aresult of the magnitude of the natural disaster, not the shoddy qualityof the school buildings. However, in the aftermath of the earthquake anumber of individuals were detained for expressing skepticism of theofficial line and alleging corruption as the main cause of thecollapses. Two of them remain detained and have recently been tried. Inaddition to Tan Zuoren, Huang Qi (黄琦), director of Tianwang Human Rights Center (, was tried behind closed door for “illegal possession of state secrets” a few days ago on August 5.

For more information, please see:

One Year after Earthquake, Silence Imposed on Schoolchildren Deaths, Activists Harassed, May 5, 2009,

The unfinished results of the investigation conducted 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>, was released in Chinese on April 27, 2009,

CHRD, “Sichuan Activist Detained before Earthquake Anniversary”, April 1, 2009,

CHRD, “Human Rights Defender Huang Qi Formally Arrested”, July 18, 2008,

CHRD, “Human Rights Defender Huang Qi Disappear, Feared Detained by Police”, June 12, 2008,

CHRD, “A Brief CV of Tan Zuoren” (in Chinese),

Media contacts for this release:

Renee Xia, International Director (English and Mandarin): +852 8191 6937

Wang Songlian, Research Coordinator and English Editor (English, Mandarin and Cantonese): +852 8191 1660


About Amnesty UK Blogs
Our blogs are written by Amnesty International staff, volunteers and other interested individuals, to encourage debate around human rights issues. They do not necessarily represent the views of Amnesty International.
View latest posts