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China court upholds earthquake activist conviction

A Chinese appeals court on Wednesday upheld the conviction of earthquake activist Tan Zuoren who was sentenced in February [JURIST report] to five years in prison on subversion charges. Tan 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. Advocacy groups and Tan's supporters maintain that he was arrested after he sought to release an independent report [advocacy report] documenting the lethal consequences of substandard construction in the Sichuan province's 2008 earthquake [BBC backgrounder; JURIST news archive], which left some 90,000 dead. Amnesty International (AI) [advocacy website] condemned Tan's conviction and called for his immediate release [press release] saying, "China must free Tan Zuoren, and stop silencing social activists and anti-corruption campaigners with vague political charges and trials that do not even follow China's own legal procedures."

In April, Chinese authorities arrested a prominent Tibetan writer [JURIST report] after he signed a letter critical of the Chinese government's relief efforts following a recent earthquake in the western Qinghai [Xinhua backgrounder] province. 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.

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