Activist Tan Zuoren was released from prison this past week, according to close sources. Tan was jailed for five years following his investigations into the deaths of thousands of children during the 2008 Sichuan earthquake.
Tan was released from a jail in Yaan, Sichuan, at about 6am and has been reunited with his wife, veteran activist Huang Qi said. Neither Tan nor his wife could be reached by phone yesterday. Huang said it was likely they had not been taken home by the authorities but somewhere else, although he declined to elaborate. […]
Huang, a close friend of Tan, said the activist still firmly believed in his mission and had written a lengthy appeal letter in prison, maintaining that he was wrongly accused.
“He firmly believes that he was put in jail because he was framed,” Huang said.
Tan was arrested on March 28, 2009 on charges of “inciting subversion of state power” because of essays he’d published criticizing the crackdown against the 1989 Tiananmen protests, but supporters of the activist believe that he was targeted because of his investigations into the collapse of school buildings of the 7.9 magnitude quake that left 88,000 people dead or missing.
Over 5,000 children were killed in the earthquake, mostly because of shoddily constructed school buildings that collapsed almost immediately and became known as “tofu schools”.
In a feature published by the Telegraph last year, reporter Tom Phillips noted that a memorial erected in Beichuan, one of the areas worst hit by the quake, failed to mention the thousands of children who perished in the tragedy, although the memorials went into “exhaustive” detail about government and rescue workers who perished.
Activists including Ai Weiwei, a close associate of Tan, reportedly called on the government to publish the names of children who residents said were being ignored by the government.
Ai called Tan’s sentencing a “travesty of justice” and before the verdict was released said “The Sichuan government refuses to make sense, refuses the facts, refuses to assume the resposibility for 5000 children who died in tofu-dreg buildings. They thing they can just judge Tan Zuoren and it’s all decided, [they’re] dreaming.”
Tan’s wife said that authorities had offered to cut his term short if he promised to quit taking part in human rights activities, but the activist refused.
“After his release, he will carry on his rights activism. There’s no doubt about that,” Huang, who was also jailed three years, told the Post. He added that it was likely Tan’s movements would be heavily monitored from now on out.