China: court upholds earthquake activist conviction

A Chinese appeals court on June 9 upheld the conviction of earthquake activist Tan Zuoren who was sentenced in February to five years in prison on subversion charges. Tan was charged with and convicted of inciting subversion to state power, allegations stemming from e-mails critical of the government’s 1989 policy toward the Tiananmen Square pro-democracy demonstrators. Advocacy groups and Tan’s supporters maintain that he was arrested after he sought to release an independent report documenting the lethal consequences of substandard construction in the Sichuan province’s 2008 earthquake, which left some 90,000 dead.

Amnesty International condemned Tan’s conviction and called for his immediate release saying, “China must free Tan Zuoren, and stop silencing social activists and anti-corruption campaigners with vague political charges and trials that do not even follow China’s own legal procedures.”

A Chinese court sentenced another earthquake activist, Huang Qi, to three years in prison in November on the charge of illegally holding state secrets. Huang was a critic of the Chinese government’s handling of the 2008 disaster. After the quake, he posted articles online criticizing the government’s response and talked to foreign media outlets about how some children’s deaths were the result of poorly-built schools.

In April, Chinese authorities arrested a prominent Tibetan writer after he signed a letter critical of the Chinese government’s relief efforts following the recent earthquake in the Qinghai province. Tra Gyal, who writes under the pseudonym Zhogs Dung, was arrested while working at the Nationalities Publishing House in the provincial capital Xining. Tra Gyal helped organize private donations for those left homeless in the remote Yushu county, a Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture, asking Tibetans not to send donations through official channels but to travel to the county themselves to guarantee their donations reached those in need. It is unclear whether Tra Gyal’s detention is related to his criticism of the earthquake relief efforts.

From Jurist, June 9. Used with permission.

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