Tan Zuoren’s Harsh Sentence Upheld by Sichuan High Court

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Tan Zuoren’s Harsh Sentence Upheld by Sichuan High Court

(Chinese Human Rights Defenders- June 9, 2010) The Sichuan Provincial High People’s Court announced this morning that it had upheld the judgment of activist and environmentalist Tan Zuoren (谭作人). Tan was convicted of “inciting subversion of state power” in February 2010 and sentenced to five years in prison, with an additional three years’ deprivation of political rights, following a trial in August 2009.

“The Sichuan High Court squandered an opportunity to correct the lower court’s harsh and unfair verdict,” said Renee Xia, CHRD’s International Director. “Mr. Tan is yet another victim of the Chinese government’s abuse of the legal system to persecute human rights activists.”

About 50 supporters gathered outside of the Sichuan Intermediate People’s Court, where the verdict was announced. At least four supporters, including Tan’s daughter Li Chang (李畅), Chengdu activist Chen Yunfei (陈云飞) and petitioner Li Tinghui (李廷惠), were taken away by the police. Representatives from the German embassy as well as a number of Hong Kong media were present outside of the courthouse. Tan’s wife was allowed to enter the court.

Shortly after the verdict was announced in February 2010, Tan appealed. On April 19, the Sichuan High Court rejected his request for an open hearing. On April 20, Tan’s lawyers Pu Zhiqiang (浦志强) and Xia Lin (夏霖) then submitted a second application for an open hearing of Tan’s appeal along with a defense statement (for the full text of the defense statement, in Chinese, please click here). On June 6, the Sichuan High Court contacted Mr. Pu to inform him that a verdict had already been reached and that it would be announced on June 9.

According to Article 187 of China’s Criminal Procedure Law, courts of second instance are not required to open a court session to hear an appeal if judges believe “the criminal facts are clear.” Public hearings of appeals for politically sensitive cases, such as Tan’s, are rarely granted. Both Liu Xiaobo (刘晓波) and Huang Qi (黄琦) had their sentences upheld in recent months following closed reviews of their appeals.

CHRD continues to call for the immediate and unconditional release of Tan Zuoren. We believe Tan has been sentenced to prison for investigating student deaths in the 2008 Sichuan earthquake and for expressing his opinions regarding the Tiananmen Massacre. By prosecuting Tan for his expression and nonviolent actions, the Chinese government has violated its own Constitution, as well as the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which China signed but has not yet ratified.


Tan, based in Chengdu, Sichuan Province, is a local activist. After the Sichuan earthquake in May 2008, Tan published a number of commentaries online that were critical of the government. In February 2009, Tan released a proposal calling on netizens to travel to Sichuan Province to compile a list of students who died in the earthquake and to investigate the quality of collapsed school buildings, as well as to assist parents of these children in their fight for justice. Tan had hoped to finish his investigation by the first anniversary of the earthquake. However, he was taken into police custody on March 28, 2009, and later arrested and tried for “inciting subversion of state power.” It is believed that Tan’s arrest was related to his earthquake investigations; however, when Tan was convicted on February 9, 2010, the court wrote that Tan’s “crime” consisted of attempting to organize commemorative activities for the 20th anniversary of the Tiananmen Massacre and corresponding and conducting interviews with “hostile foreign forces.”

Media Contacts for this Release:

Renee Xia, International Director (English and Mandarin), +852 8191 6937 or +1 301 547 9286

Wang Songlian, Research Coordinator (English and Mandarin), +852 8170 0237

David Smalls, Researcher (English), +1 347 448 5285

For more information, please see:

“Activist Tan Zuoren Sentenced to Five Years in Prison for ‘Inciting Subversion,’” February 10, 2010, https://www.nchrd.org/2010/02/10/activist-tan-zuoren-sentenced-to-five-years-in-prison-for-inciting-subversion/.

“Chengdu Police and Court Flout Law in ‘Truly Disgraceful’ Trial of Tan Zuoren,” August 13, 2009, https://www.nchrd.org/article/Class9/Class10/200908/20090813040922_16788.html.

“Our Children,” a documentary film about efforts to investigate student deaths in the Sichuan earthquake: http://www.youtube.com/view_play_list?p=6D03DD4EEEA1F7CB.

“Laoma Tihua,” a documentary film about the experience of witnesses detained during Tan Zuoren’s trial: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MOFyq5M8ZKU.

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