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Tuesday, February 09, 2010

China earthquake activist sentenced to 5 years in prison for subversion
Megan McKee at 8:05 AM ET

[JURIST] A Chinese court on Tuesday sentenced human rights activist Tan Zuoren to five years in prison on subversion charges. Amnesty International (AI) [advocacy website] says that Zuoren sought to release an independent report [AI report] documenting the lethal consequences of substandard construction in the Sichuan province's 2008 earthquake [BBC backgrounder], which left some 90,000 dead. Although Zuoren 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 [NYT backgrounder] pro-democracy demonstrators, AI and Zuoren's supporters maintain the earthquake report is the reason [NYT report] for his arrest and conviction. AI has urged the government to release Zuoren, and Zuoren's lawyer has reported his intentions to appeal the ruling.

A Chinese court sentenced another earthquake activist [JURIST report] 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. AI issued a statement [text] in July urging China to drop the charges against Huang and release him from custody.

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