The Times reports a sign of China’s increasingly hard line against dissent. Activist Tan Zuoren has been jailed for five years after he investigated whether shoddy construction contributed to deaths of thousands of schoolchildren in an earthquake in Sichuan province two years ago.
However the charges related to involved “inciting subversion of state power” because of essays in which he criticized the bloody crackdown against pro-democracy demonstrators in Tiananmen Square on June 4, 1989.
Friends and his lawyers believe that Mr Tan’s efforts to document and produce an independent report on the collapse of school buildings in the Sichuan earthquake in May 2008, when some 90,000 people died, were the real reason for the sentence.
The sentence against Mr Tan was the maximum possible for his crime. The severity of the term highlighted the increasingly tough approach adopted by the Government in recent months against any hint of dissent.
Mr Tan was the first person in a decade to be sentenced for actions linked to the 1989 crackdown. Most supporters and human rights activists were in little doubt that it was his attempts to document whether schools had been built on the cheap and were thus particularly vulnerable when the earthquake hit that had angered the authorities.
Last year, a court in Chengdu sentenced activist Huang Qi to three years for “revealing state secrets” after he tried to gather information on faulty construction of school buildings that critics say contributed to the children’s deaths. More than 5,000 of the dead were children.
What can you say? Words fail.