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Chinese activist charged with subversion

world Updated: Jul 31, 2009 16:48 IST

A Chinese activist who questioned why so many schoolchildren died in 2008’s massive earthquake has been charged with subversion and will stand trial in mid-August, his lawyer on Friday said.

Tan Zuoren’s trial is to begin on August 12 in Chengdu, capital of Sichuan province, where a devastating earthquake last year left nearly 90,000 dead or missing, said lawyer Pu Zhiqiang of Beijing’s Huayi Law Firm.

Tan is accused of inciting to subvert state power, but it was not immediately clear what evidence will be brought against him, Pu said by telephone from Chengdu.

Beijing routinely uses the charge of subversion to imprison dissidents for years.

Following the 7.9-magnitude earthquake in Sichuan, Tan tried to investigate the collapse of school buildings in the quake and the number of schoolchildren killed, estimating at least 5,600 students were victims.

Tan had hoped to complete his investigation before the May 12 anniversary of the quake, but he was detained in late March, Hong Kong-based activist network Chinese Human Rights Defenders said earlier.

In May, the government finally released its own count of students killed in the disaster, putting the official toll at 5,335.