Tuesday, February 09, 2010

Chinese Earthquake Investigator Tan Zuoren Jailed for Five Years

Chinese Dissident Tan Zuoren

The U.K. Guardian (2-9-10) reports:

A Chinese activist who investigated the deaths of children in schools that collapsed in the Sichuan earthquake was today jailed for five years for subversion, his lawyer said.

The court in Chengdu sentenced Tan Zuoren over comments he made in online articles about the violent crackdown on Tiananmen Square protests in 1989. But he and his supporters believe he was detained owing to his research into the deaths of thousands of pupils. Charges related to his investigation were ignored in the verdict.

"The court was very smart. They took out any mention of the earthquake from the verdict because they are afraid of referring to it," said his lawyer, Pu Zhiqiang.

The quake in the south-western province in May 2008 left almost 90,000 people dead or missing. But parents demanded to know why many schools collapsed even when buildings around them stood firm. As public outrage about poor quality construction grew, authorities stamped out any discussion of the matter, harassing parents who protested.

Tan, 55, received the maximum sentence for subverting state power, highlighting what human rights groups describe as an increasingly punitive environment for dissidents. He plans to appeal....

Tan's wife, Wang Qinghua, was not allowed to attend the 10 minute sentencing session. "Even one day of imprisonment is too much. He only exercised his freedom of expression and addressed corruption from his own conscience," she told Amnesty International.

"Tan's case is the most important one to take place recently, because it is a sign of a huge step backwards in China's judicial ethics and independence after decades of reform and opening," said Ai Weiwei, a leading artist who has also attempted to tally the number of pupils who died in the disaster.

"Tan Zuoren received such a serious punishment only for believing or writing in his [online] diaries that there were problems with the earthquake. It is ridiculous. Though China claims to the world that it is a major country, the case just shows how fragile and lacking in confidence it is"...

"[Tan's] arrest, unfair trial and now the guilty verdict are further disturbing examples of how the Chinese authorities use vague and over broad laws to silence and punish dissenting voices," said Roseann Rife, Asia-Pacific deputy director at Amnesty.

"The Chinese authorities cannot continue to claim that they are dealing with human rights defenders according to the law when they violate so many of their own legal procedures in cases like this." [See full text.]


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Here's Tan's court verdict:


it seems to single out Tan working with overseas Falun Gong media outlet Sound of Hope (funded by US government via the NED, Friends of Falun Gong run by NED veteran Ambassador Mark Palmer) on their 6/4 propaganda.

His Sichuan quake investigation is not what got him in trouble.

1:32 AM  
Blogger Snapple said...

Lots of Chinese who complain about the schools falling down in the earthquake are intimidated and repressed.

Formally Tan got in trouble for a different reason, because the government didn't want to admit it is punishing people for criticizing the poorly-built schools.

Why don't you write Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and ask them about your opinion.

5:39 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Can you prove it? China has a lot of people, can you name some?

The truth our media don't tell us, is most of the schools collpased were built prior to new quakeproof standards were imposed.

2:15 PM  
Blogger Snapple said...

Thank you for your question. I am sorry so many people died in that earthquake.

I am not sure what you want me to prove because you said "it."

Since the trial was supposedly not about Han's earthquake research, nobody testified, but here is a film of the investigation in Chinese that seems to be interviewing people.


6:20 PM  
Blogger Snapple said...

Dear Friend,

Here is an article in the New York Times. It says that Mr. Ai Wei Wei made a list of the children who died in the quake, but he was beaten by police when he tried to come to the trial. Maybe Ai Wei Wei has these names.

February 9, 2010
Chinese Advocate of Quake Victims Sentenced Over E-Mails
BEIJING (Reuters) — A Chinese activist who sought to document shoddy construction that he contended had contributed to deaths in China’s devastating 2008 earthquake has been sentenced to five years in prison for subversion, his lawyer said Tuesday.

The charges against the activist, Tan Zuoren, had nothing directly to do with his efforts on behalf of those killed in the earthquake. Instead he was accused of inciting subversion of state power because of comments he made in e-mail messages about the crackdown on June 4, 1989, on pro-democracy demonstrators around Tiananmen Square.

But Mr. Tan’s supporters and Amnesty International say that he had planned to issue an independent report on the collapse of school buildings during the earthquake in Sichuan Province, in which more than 80,000 people died. And that, they argue, was the reason for his arrest and conviction.

His trial in Chengdu, the capital of Sichuan Province, was adjourned without a verdict in August.

He plans to appeal, his lawyer, Pu Zhiqiang, said, adding that his sentence was the maximum possible.

Mr. Tan’s research into the collapse of buildings during the earthquake was never mentioned in the subversion case, Mr. Pu said. Mr. Tan was the first person in a decade to be sentenced for actions related to the Tiananmen Square crackdown, he added.

Ai Weiwei, an artist who has also campaigned for earthquake victims, said of Mr. Tan’s conviction and sentencing: “It shows the Chinese legal system has taken a big step backward. Tan’s ‘crime’ was entirely one of speech, of conscience.”

Mr. Ai, who compiled a list of the children who died in the quake, said he had been beaten by police officers when he traveled to Chengdu to attend Mr. Tan’s trial in August.

6:39 PM  
Blogger Snapple said...

Dear Friend,

Here is another New York Times article about Mr. Ai.

August 13, 2009
Chinese Artist Says He Was Barred From Rights Advocate’s Trial

BEIJING — A prominent Chinese artist and frequent critic of the Communist Party said he was hit by police officers and put under detention in his hotel room in western China on Wednesday when he tried to go testify at the trial of a civil rights advocate.

The artist, Ai Weiwei, best known for helping to design the Bird’s Nest Olympic Stadium in Beijing, said dozens of police officers barged into his hotel room early Wednesday and the rooms of others who had traveled to Chengdu, the capital of Sichuan Province, to testify on behalf of Tan Zuoren, the rights advocate.

The opening session of Mr. Tan’s trial began Wednesday morning and ended hours later without a verdict. The courtroom was closed to the public. Mr. Tan, a well-known writer, has been charged with subversion. He is believed to be on trial because of his role in pushing for an official investigation into widespread school collapses during the Sichuan earthquake last year, and for trying to organize a group event in June to commemorate the 20th anniversary of the massacre of civilians by government forces during the Tiananmen Square protests of 1989.

Earlier this month, another rights advocate, Huang Qi, went on trial on a charge of possessing state secrets. Like Mr. Tan, he pushed for the government to investigate the school collapses.

During the earthquake last year, thousands of students were killed when school buildings in Sichuan and other provinces crumbled, even as surrounding buildings remained standing. Grieving parents said shoddy construction and corruption were responsible, and demanded that officials investigate. Local governments went to great efforts to silence the parents, ordering the police to detain them, or handing out cash payments in exchange for the parents’ dropping their complaints.

Initial reports from the official news media said about 7,000 schoolrooms collapsed and as many as 10,000 children might have died. In May, the government released the first official toll of students killed, saying 5,335 were dead or missing.

Earlier this year, Mr. Ai sent volunteers to Sichuan to collect the names of students who had been killed. He began posting the names on his blog and kept a running tally. Government censors then blocked his blog, Mr. Ai said, while police officers in Sichuan detained some of his volunteers and beat a few of them.

Mr. Ai said in a telephone interview on Wednesday that he had arrived in Chengdu the previous day to testify on behalf of Mr. Tan but that the judge did not allow him to. He said that he had planned to appear at court anyway but that he and 10 or 11 of his volunteers were prevented from doing so by the officers who barged into their hotel rooms and kept them under watch.

“They left a couple of hours later, but some stayed in the hallway and some in the lobby to keep an eye on us, to make sure we failed to attend the trial,” Mr. Ai said from the hotel.

Mr. Ai posted grainy digital photographs on Twitter of police officers in the hotel hallway.

Someone answering the phone at the police headquarters in Chengdu declined to comment.

The court did not allow anyone to testify on behalf of Mr. Tan at the trial on Wednesday, said Pu Zhiqiang, Mr. Tan’s lawyer.

He said he would submit a written defense statement to the court by Monday.

“However, unless this is an extremely rare case, Tan will be found guilty,” he said.

6:56 PM  
Blogger Snapple said...

The article said:

"Mr. Ai sent volunteers to Sichuan to collect the names of students who had been killed. He began posting the names on his blog and kept a running tally. Government censors then blocked his blog, Mr. Ai said, while police officers in Sichuan detained some of his volunteers and beat a few of them."

Mr. Ai tried to tell the Children's names, but the government blocked his blog so nobody can read it.


7:04 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Keep drinking your Snapple and follow our media's anti-China indictrination.

The fact is it's no one's fault when the quake is stronger than building code from 10-20 years ago.

Some experts looking at this have come out and said it’s not as simple as blaming construction problem, as it is unlikely to be the sole factor. These articles were found from above search:



- As typical, Chengdu’s building code after 1978 required quake resistance to 6.0 mag, and was updated to 7.0 after 2001. The quake struck was 7.8-8.0. Building’s quakeproof depended on the age of the building and code at the time.

- Shearing effect varied throughout the region depending on soil condition; some area without rocky substrate sustained 10-11 mag. shearing force (think Kobe.)

- (sorry shameless promotion) After the usual suspect in the expat blogsphere jumped on the Ai Weiwei story in April, I too searched for some answers, and I found the fatality name lists distributed werer decentralized (local paper, hospital, authority, examples in my blogpost) and counts of student victims were published by regional/central government.

(If you don't read Chinese, try using a translator.)

6:45 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Snapple, here's a blogger talking about why the "tofu construction" thing isn't proof positive:


6:53 PM  

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