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Trial Date Set for Hangzhou Environmentalist

May 11, 2006

Human Rights in China (HRIC) has learned that detained environmental activist Tan Kai will go to trial at Hangzhou’s Xihu District Court on May 15 on charges of “illegally obtaining state secrets.”

The Hangzhou Public Security Bureau issued summonses to Tan and five other members of an unregistered environmental civil society group “Green Watch” (lüse guancha) on October 19, 2005 after the group opened a bank account under Tan’s name. All but Tan were permitted to leave that day after questioning. Tan was detained and subsequently arrested on December 7, and indicted on April 29, 2006.

Tan Kai, Lai Jinbiao, Gao Haibing, Wu Yuanming, Qi Huimin and Yang Jianming informally organized Green Watch after monitoring the situation in Huashui Town in Dongyang City, Zhejiang Province in April 2005 following complaints by local residents that pollution from a chemical factory was destroying crops and causing birth defects. Protests by the villagers in late March and April culminated in a violent conflict with local police on April 10, in which more than 400 police officers were reportedly deployed and many people injured. On November 15, the Zhejiang provincial government declared Green Watch an illegal organization.

According to HRIC’s sources, the state secrets charge against Tan stems from his employment as a computer repair technician, during which he routinely made backup copies of clients’ computer files. Last year Tan repaired the office computer of an employee of the Zhejiang provincial Party committee, and as usual made a backup copy of the computer’s files, which the authorities claim constitutes “illegally obtaining state secrets.”

Sources told HRIC that Tan’s father, Tan Xiaolong, last year engaged two Beijing-based lawyers, Li Heping and Li Xiongbing, to serve as Tan Kai’s defense lawyers, but the Hangzhou PSB denied permission to engage counsel because the case involved state secrets. The elder Tan persisted with another application, and sources say Li Heping is now formally handling Tan’s defense. Li was able to visit Tan at the Xihu Detention Center on May 9.

This case raises serious concerns about yet another example of the politicized use of State Secrets charges to silence and intimidate grassroots activists like Tan Kai. HRIC urges the Xihu District Court to provide Tan Kai with a fair hearing with all the procedural protections guaranteed under Chinese law, including access to all evidence and a full opportunity to present his defense.