China quake school critic receives one-year sentence-group

Wed Jul 30, 2008 1:09am EDT

BEIJING, July 29 (Reuters) - A teacher from China's earthquake-hit southwest was sentenced to one year of detention after photographing some of the schools that toppled, killing thousands of children, a rights group said on Wednesday.

Human Rights in China said Liu Shaokun was sentenced to "re-education through labour" on charges of "inciting a disturbance". Labour re-education is a form of imprisonment that does not require a trial and is not open to usual court appeals.

More than 87,000 people were killed or are missing as a result of the May 12 earthquake in mountainous parts of Sichuan province. The dead included many children trapped in school buildings parents later said were weak due to shoddy materials and lax safety checks.

The grieving parents' complaints of official corruption behind the collapsed schools were initially reported by local Chinese media. But as the government readies for the Olympic Games, it has sought to silence criticism and protests.

Sharon Hom, executive director of New York-based Human Rights in China, said Liu was a victim of that crackdown.

"These actions further undermine human rights and the 'peaceful Olympics' called for by the authorities, and reflect an irresponsible callousness towards the Sichuan earthquake victims," Hom said in an emailed statement.

Liu, a middle school teacher in Deyang, a quake-hit part of Sichuan, journeyed through devastated parts, taking photos of collapsed schools and circulating them on the Internet, the group said. He had spoken about his anger at "shoddy" schools, it said.

He was detained on June 25 and his wife was told of his sentence on July 23. Liu's wife, whom the group cited as its source, could not be contacted, and police in Deyang refused to answer questions about him. (Reporting by Chris Buckley; Editing by Nick Macfie) (chris.buckley@reuters.com; +86 10 66271261)

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