Sichuan quake activist Tan Zuoren defiant after release from prison

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 27 March, 2014, 12:33pm
UPDATED : Friday, 28 March, 2014, 3:40am

Activist Tan Zuoren, who was jailed for five years after investigating the deaths of thousands of children in the 2008 Sichuan earthquake, was released yesterday, said two fellow rights campaigners, although his whereabouts remained unknown.

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.

Fellow activist Ran Yunfei said he had met Tan after his release, but 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. "After his release, he will carry on his rights activism. There's no doubt about that."

Tan was arrested on March 28, 2009, and jailed the following year on the charge of "inciting subversion of state power".

The Sichuan court which sentenced Tan accused him of taking part in a commemoration of the 1989 Tiananmen crackdown and slandering the government over its handling of the incident in a 2007 essay.

But his supporters believe he was targeted because of his independent investigation into the collapse of the school buildings in the quake, which saw 88,000 people killed or left missing.

They pointed out he had been charged only after antagonising the authorities by blaming shoddy building work for the collapse of school buildings in the quake.

His wife previously said the authorities had offered to cut his jail term if he confessed or promised he would refrain from taking part in human rights activities, but he refused.

Huang, who was himself jailed for three years after investigating the collapse of school buildings in the Sichuan earthquake, said it was highly likely that Tan's movements and communications would remain tightly monitored after his release.