China: Green activist detained to stop release of report on Sichuan earthquake child deaths and corruption

Sichuan environmental activist and writer Tan Zuoren was detained on 28 March by the police in Chengdu, Sichuan province on suspicion of “inciting subversion of state power”. He is now detained at Wenjiang Detention Centre. Amnesty International believes that he is at risk of torture and other ill-treatment.

Local sources believed that Tan Zuoren’s detention was linked to his intention to issue publicly on the first anniversary of the Sichuan earthquake, a list of Children's rights who died during the earthquake on 12 May 2008, along with an independently investigated report on the collapse of many school buildings due to corruption.

Sources told Amnesty that local police requested that Tan Zuoren, aged 55, go to the police station for a talk on the morning of 28 March. At approximately 3:00pm the same afternoon, a group of police officers searched his home. The police took away some of his writings, other documents and video CDs and told his wife over the phone they had something to deliver to her. In the evening, the family received a notice issued by the Chengdu City Police Station, stating that Tan Zuoren had been detained for criminal investigation. The police rejected his wife’s request to visit him.

Tan Zuoren had previously been repeatedly questioned by the police. He was also previously harassed by unidentified individuals who twice stole his computer and also stabbed and injured his dog.

Amnesty International UK Director Kate Allen said:

“The Chinese authorities should release Tan Zuoren immediately.

“Until then they must let his lawyer and his family see him, and guarantee that he is not tortured or ill-treated in custody.

“Sadly Tan Zuoren is one of many human rights activists in China facing intimidation and arrest just for peacefully demanding that the rights of Chinese people are respected.”

Tan Zuoren is a prominent environmentalist. He previously issued a report to warn against possible health, safety and environmental hazards by the government’s “PX” chemical projects in Sichuan province. He has also volunteered with disaster management projects after the earthquake.

In the wake of the Sichuan earthquake, Chinese authorities initially allowed unprecedented and widely praised reporting freedoms in the quake zone. However, later they curtailed the work of foreign journalists and barred them entry from or escorted them out of towns in the affected areas. Human rights activists trying to investigate reasons for buildings collapsing, and families who lost their Children's rights and are trying to seek justice, are being harassed and are under surveillance.

Human rights activists in China who attempt to report on human rights violations, challenge policies that the authorities deem politically sensitive, or try to rally others to their cause, face serious risk of abuse. Broad and vaguely defined charges of "stealing, possessing and leaking state secrets" and "subversion" are used to arbitrarily detain and prosecute activists, journalists and Internet users.

Many are jailed as prisoners of conscience after politically motivated trials, while growing numbers are being held under house arrest with the police conducting intrusive surveillance and standing guard outside. Since the beginning of 2009, a year that sees several sensitive anniversaries in China, the crackdown on human rights activists has intensified. Family members of human rights activists, including Children's rights, are increasingly targeted by the authorities in the crackdown.

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