Tuesday, Dec. 08, 2009

Tan Zuoren

When the Sichuan earthquake struck southwest China in May 2008, hundreds of buildings crumbled — a large number of them schools. Thousands of children were killed in China's deadliest natural disaster in decades, leaving bereaved parents wondering why their sons and daughters had been left vulnerable in such shoddily constructed buildings. Blogger and democracy activist Tan Zuoren took up the parents' cause, working with others to compile a list of the students who died in the rubble that day and draw attention to the construction of the cheap "tofu" buildings that collapsed so easily. Not surprisingly, the efforts of Tan and the volunteers helping him were met with resistance from the local officials who had approved those buildings. On March 28, Tan was arrested in Chengdu, a city in Sichuan, for posting subversive content online. The 55-year-old remains in jail and faces up to five years in prison.