[Last updated Feb 10 1:03 AM Beijing time]
Note: You can follow up to the minute tweets on Tan Zuoren’s sentencing here, but most of them are in Chinese.
Tan Zuoren, like Ai Weiwei, was conducting a citizen’s investigation into the deaths of students in the Sichuan earthquake last year. On March 28th, he was arrested, supposedly because of some comments he made via email about the June 4th, 1989 crackdown on protesters in Tiananmen Square, and a long trial followed that Ai Weiwei, among others, went to testify in (this was when Ai was attacked by police and beaten, causing his brain injury).
Today is the day the verdict was announced: Tan Zuoren is now sentenced to five years, according to early tweets from those present in the courtroom. Some reports say that the session lasted as little as five minutes before the verdict was announced, one of Tan’s lawyers wrote in a note to Ai Weiwei that it lasted “no longer than ten minutes.”
According to Tan’s lawyer, the results of this can be appealed, but only within ten days, and since the Spring Festival holiday is fast approaching, Tan Zuoren’s lawyers only have two or three days to prepare. This is clearly no accident. Mr. Xia (one of Tan’s lawyers) called the trial’s planning “Very damaging.”
Mr. Xia also tweeted:
Right now I’m going back to the hotel for a rest, in the afternoon I’ll go to the Wenjiang Prison [to see Tan Zuoren]. I am extremely disappointed and angry.
And then later he described the sentencing in a bit more detail:
Tan Zuoren was wearing a gray fleece, and as the sentence was handed down he wore a tranquil expression. [When] the presiding judge Liu Han [read] his opinion, Tan Zuoren stated in court that he was dissatisfied, and that there was a discrepancy between his understanding of the law and the judge’s, and firmly demanded an appeal. As he was led out of court by the bailiff, he raised his voice and said “Being imprisoned for the sake of my people is my honor.”
Another of Tan Zuoren’s lawyers, Pu Zhiqiang, wrote this note to Ai Weiwei following the trial (Ai Weiwei then tweeted it in pieces, I am translating only part of it now but mouseover for the whole text in Chinese):
Teacher/Brigand Ai: The result of Tan Zuoren’s case has come down. The sentencing process lasted no longer than ten minutes. Tan’s wife, Ai Nanshan, etc. were not allowed into the courtroom […] On the first count, of inciting to subvert state power, he was found guilty […] on the first count, he was sentenced to a fixed term of five years imprisonment, and a loss of political rights for three years. When the judge asked him for his opinion, Zuoren mentioned on the spot that he would appeal, saying: ‘My understanding of the law is too different from yours, these things I did do not constitute a crime. Soon afterward, Liu Han shouted an order that the defendant Tan Zuoren be detained and the bench hurriedly left the courtroom. From our perspective, from start to finish the presiding judge and the other two judges didn’t ever appear to have mixed feelings […] the sentencing was directed against Tan’s speech, and given that [the things he said] aside from those about June 4th were not specified, it shows that the Chengdu court doesn’t want to touch on the earthquake topic. He [Tan Zuoren] is different from Liu Xiaobo, unlike the latter he didn’t take a stand against autocracy or dictatorship and was mostly collecting things about the environment and people’s lives. This is also decided, in the second trial we can only use the topic of June 4th as grounds for our defense.
Ai Weiwei Tweets Before the Verdict Was Announced
Ai Weiwei has been constantly tweeting about Tan Zuoren in the past twenty four hours. Here are some of his posts, in chronological order (newest at the bottom):
Tomorrow morning conscience, courage, and honesty will be teased and put on trial in China.
There’s nothing special about Tan Zuoren, he just doesn’t believe lies, and at the same time, he doesn’t want his descendants to live in darkness.
In Sichuan, saying ‘buildings made of tofu dregs will collapse and students shouldn’t study in buildings that will collapse’ is illegal. In China, saying ‘you shouldn’t put melamine in milk or children will get painful kidneystones’ is illegal.
In four hours, when the clock strikes 9:30, freedom will shed a tear [Tan Zuoren’s verdict was announced at 9:30]
In this crowded mass of people, those who don’t tell lies are solitary, Tan Zuoren at least proves that point.
Not clearing Tan Zuoren’s name is an insult to freedom and justice.
Today, someone will suffer for your sake.
Today, Sichuan says the children who have died have no names; they never existed.
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.
What the Sichuan government doesn’t realize is that Tan Zuoren is a part of us; the best part of him is still with us, and we will not surrender him.
In keeping with his tradition, Ai then posted the names and details of the Sichuan students who died that were born on February 9th: Cao Ziwei (girl, 9); Du Yuhan (boy, 7); Huang Shasha (girl, 14); Liu Hengguang (boy, 10); Xia Guiying (girl, 16); Yang Ronghao (boy, 13); Yang Zhonghua (boy, 12); Tan Yong (boy, 17); Chen Yang (boy, 16); Yang Ting (girl, 12). He then continued:
Tan Zuoren, today 5000 wandering souls are all your children, calling out to you together
Tweets About the Verdict and Responses
After that and a few retweets, the news began to come in over twitter in the form of a single message being repeatedly re-tweeted:
News from the scene: five years.
Ai Weiwei himself tweeted this a few minutes later:
Reuters reports: five years.
Then, more tweets from Ai:
Grass mud horse [i.e., “Fuck!”] grass mud horse grass mud horse grass mud horse grass mud horse grass mud horse grass mud horse grass mud horse grass mud horse grass mud horse grass mud horse grass mud horse grass mud horse grass mud horse grass mud horse grass mud horse grass mud horse grass mud horse
After sixty years, where are human rights?
Ai Weiwei again:
This country has no hope, it has no past, and today, even moreso it has no future.
Sixty years have gone by, and on ideological issues and freedom of speech there has been no change. Fuck!
Two of Tan Zuoren’s lawyers can be found on Twitter here and here. One has already commented on the verdict, saying he was “extremely disappointed and angry”. Additionally, in light of the verdict, Ai Weiwei has promised to end all of his future tweets with “Grass Mud Horse” [i.e., “Fuck!” or “Fuck your mother!”].
Some images also being passed around on Twitter (via Amoiist):
Many people are also tweeting something Tan Zuoren said:
Wherever there is a mistake, there will be dissenters. If there are no dissenters, then there’s no civil society.
And, of course, just as with Liu Xiaobo a clever pun emerged to show support [“随波逐刘”], so too has a pun emerged for Tan Zuoren. Several people have re-tweeted a message that ends thusly:
Conscience and courage are the soul of civil society, I am not afraid! I don’t want to be a wandering spirit, I don’t want to be a living tombstone, I want to be a person! [“be a person” here is written with the same characters as Tan Zuoren’s given name, so it also reads “I want Zuoren”]
Show Your Support
This netizen has promised to post a bank account that can be used to wire transfer donations to Tan Zuoren. People interested in donating to Tan Zuoren can send money via PayPal to firstname.lastname@example.org, according to that person’s twitter account. In terms of their connection to Tan Zuoren and guarantees of how the money would be spent, they said this (via Twitter):
I have no relation to Tan Zuoren and cannot guarantee the money will be used for his case. After collecting it, it will be given to his family to use. [I am] announcing every cent that is donated, and on a definite day [or] when the donations reach a set amount I will stop accepting donations. Then I will give all the money to Tan Zuoren’s wife. Then Tan’s wife will have someone she trusts post to Twitter that she received this amount of money from me.
So there you have it.
In case anyone is interested, I have also made some t-shirts expressing covert support for Liu Xiaobo and Tan Zuoren that can be found here. Lest I be accused of attempting to profit off of someone else’s misfortune, please be aware that I have set the markup on all of these items to 0% so that they are cheap, so all of the money you pay goes directly to CafePress, I get nothing. If you are interested, be aware that there are TONS of style and color choices, so browse thoroughly before buying. Note also that the pricing varies by style, the cheapest shirts are the $8.99 value tees. A couple examples are below (again note that I make no profit off this whatsoever, just trying to help people show support if they want):