Detained for earthquake photo posting, China teacher to serve sentence outside of labor camp

Human Rights in China (HRIC), Sep. 26, 2008-

Human Rights in China (HRIC) has learned that Liu Shaokun (刘绍坤), who was sentenced to one year of Reeducation-Through-Labor (劳动教养) (RTL) after posting online his photographs of collapsed school buildings in quake-affected areas, was released by the authorities on Wednesday, September 24, to serve his sentence outside the labor camp.

Following Liu’s sentencing in July, HRIC reported his case and urged the Chinese government to release him, which drew the attention of the international community. Liu’s family expressed gratitude to HRIC and the international community for their concern.

“It is absurd that the authorities imposed RTL on Liu merely because he attempted to document the situation in the quake-hit zone,” said Sharon Hom, executive director of Human Rights in China. “Accurate and timely information about the earthquake damage is important to both reconstruction efforts and to informed responses to future earthquakes.”

Liu’s family told HRIC that, following the decision of the RTL Committee of Deyang City, Sichuan (四川德阳市劳动教养委员会), Liu returned home around 5 p.m. on September 24. He remains under residential surveillance. The police agreed to return Liu’s computer and other belongings that they confiscated.

Liu Shaokun, a teacher at Guanghan Middle School, Deyang City, Sichuan Province (四川省德阳市广汉中学), traveled to heavily hit areas after the May 12 Sichuan earthquake, took photos of collapsed school buildings, and posted them online. In a media interview, he expressed his anger at “the shoddy ‘tofu’ buildings.” Liu was detained on June 25 at his school.

On July 23, when Liu’s wife went to the Guanghan City Public Security Bureau to pick up a letter from her husband, she was told that Liu was sentenced to one year of RTL for “inciting a disturbance” (煽动闹事). Since then, Liu’s family and Liu’s work unit have been appealing for a sentence “outside the RTL camp” for Liu. On September 12, Liu’s family was told that the RTL Committee of Deyang City had finally approved their application.

As China prepares to host the 14th World Conference on Earthquake Engineering on October 12–17, 2008, HRIC urges the Chinese authorities to also immediately release Huang Qi and Zeng Hongling, who were both detained by the authorities for reporting activities following the Sichuan earthquake.

- Human Rights in China

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