Media reports and information available online indicate that upon his release from prison today, Sichuan environmental activist and writer Tan Zuoren (谭作人) did not return to his home in Chengdu but was taken by the authorities to an undisclosed location in Chongqing. Tan served a five-year term in Ya’an Prison, Sichuan, on conviction of “inciting subversion of state power.” Dozens of supporters who waited at three different locations—the prison, Tan’s home, and the police sub-station in Tan’s home district—had hoped to welcome him back.
Tan was first detained on March 28, 2009, three days after the online release of a report titled Independent Investigation Report by Citizens (公民独立调查报告), which presented findings of an investigation he conducted with a colleague, Xie Yihui (谢贻卉), into the causes of the widespread collapse of school buildings during the May 2008 earthquake in Sichuan. The subsequent indictment did not, however, mention his earthquake investigation but cited as evidence his 2007 essay on the 1989 Democracy Movement, “1989: Bearing Witness to the Ultimate Beauty—Diary of an Eyewitness from the Square” (1989：见证最后的美丽——一个目击者的广场日记), and his proposal for a blood drive to commemorate the 20th anniversary of June Fourth.
Reached yesterday before receiving confirmation of his release, Tan’s wife Wang Qinghua (王庆华) said that she thought the authorities would send Tan home. She said, “[Tan] should not have served even one day in prison. He did not violate any law, or commit any crime…”
Tan is subjected to three years of post-release deprivation of political rights, which prohibits, among other things, publishing articles and giving press interviews. Regarding this, Tan’s lawyer Pu Zhiqiang (浦志强) said, “It matters very little—few Chinese really enjoy political rights.”
In a tweet on March 27, writer Ran Yunfei (冉云飞) reported a phone conversation with Tan and said that Tan sounded well and seemed to be in good health.
Artist Ai Weiwei’s (艾未未) studio group has compiled an archive of documents related to Tan Zuoren, which includes his investigative report on the student victims of the Sichuan earthquake and select legal documents relating to his prosecution, including Tan’s final statement at the first instance trial, which he was not allowed to deliver, and the defense statement at the second instance trial.
In 2011, HRIC published in China Rights Forum“1989: Bearing Witness to the Ultimate Beauty—Diary of an Eyewitness from the Square,” along with a profile of Tan.