03/27/2014, 00.00
CHINA
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Tan Zuoren, who sought justice for children killed in Sichuan, free after five years

After the terrible earthquake of 2008 , which killed more than 5,600 children in the schools of the province, the activist had investigated the building standards and denounced the corruption of the local government. Convicted of "subversion of state power", he is ready to continue his fight for the peoples’ rights.

Beijing (AsiaNews) - Authorities in the southwestern province of Sichuan this morning released Tan Zuoren from prison.  The Chinese activist was jailed for five years for having investigated the death of thousands of children during the disastrous earthquake that struck the area in 2008. Immediately after the earthquake, which occurred in May, Tan asked the government to investigate the building standards of schools in the area, most of which collapsed "as if they were built with tofu". Arrested March 28, 2009, he was sentenced to five years in prison.

Huang Qi, an activist and a friend of Tan who also spent three years in prison for the investigation following the earthquake, confirmed Yaan's release from prison: "He firmly believes that he was put in jail because he was framed. He has written a lengthy appeal letter in prison, maintaining that he was wrongly accused. After his release, he will carry on his rights activism. There is no doubt about that".

According to official data, the 2008 earthquake killed more than 87 thousand people. The tremors brought down more than 7 thousand school buildings and 5,335 pupils were trapped under the rubble. Tan conducted investigations into 64 schools that collapsed and estimated that there are over 5,600 students who died, however, on the basis of incomplete data. Many schools collapsed while the surrounding buildings are still standing and the parents of the victims have complained that they were poorly constructed, lacked emergency exits and demanded investigations. Beijing promised a thorough and immediate investigation, but then never revealed the results.

During his trial, the prosecution did not speak of collapsed schools but of an article written by Tan on the Tiananmen Square massacre June 4, 1989 in Beijing: the formal accusation that led to the conviction is that of "subversion of state power". His supporters have always said that the activist was sentenced for his investigations into the collapsed schools.

Wang Qinghua, Tan 's wife , said that "several times" the authorities have promised a reduction of the activist's sentence if he "confessed to his crimes and promised not to proceed with his activities in favor of human rights".

 

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