In a brief hearing on February 9, 2010, in the Chengdu Municipal Intermediate People’s Court, Sichuan-based writer and environmental activist Tan Zuoren was found guilty of “inciting subversion of state power” and sentenced to a five-year prison term and three years’ deprivation of political rights. According to an informed source, when police led him away after the court hearing, Tan shouted: “It is my honor to go to prison for the people of my hometown.” Tan’s family said he will appeal the conviction.

Tan was first detained on March 28, 2009, just three days after online publication of the findings of an investigation that he conducted with a colleague, Xie Yihue, into the causes of the widespread collapse of school buildings during the May 2008 earthquake. The indictment, however, did not mention Tan’s earthquake investigation or its findings as constituting “incitement to subvert state power.” Instead, it listed as evidence a 2007 article that Tan wrote about the 1989 Democracy Movement, a proposal for a blood drive to commemorate the 20th anniversary of the government’s crackdown on the 1989 Democracy Movement, and interviews that Tan gave to foreign media about the 2008 earthquake.

Tan was tried on August 12, 2009, by the Chengdu court. Before the trial, the well-known artist Ai Weiwei, who had traveled to Chengdu and prepared to be a witness for Tan, was beaten by Chengdu police and detained in his hotel room for 11 hours. The court did not allow any defense witnesses to attend the trial. During the trial, the judge repeatedly interrupted the defense lawyer, Pu Zhiqiang, and Tan was not allowed to make his final statement.

“Yet again, a Chinese citizen is punished for exercising his right to freedom of expression,” said Sharon Hom, executive director of Human Rights in China. “Tan Zuoren’s conviction and sentence remind us once again that the Chinese government continues to refuse to take responsibility for its actions during the June Fourth crackdown and for the corruption that led to the deaths of innocent children.”

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