In April 2005, Mr. Tan Kai, along with Mr. Lai Jinbiao, Mr. Gao Haibing, Mr. Wu Yuanming, Mr. Qi Huimin and Mr. Yang Jianming informally founded Green Watch, an environmental civil society group created in response to complaints from residents of Huashui Town in Dongyang City regarding pollution produced by a chemical factory. On April 12, 2005, shortly after protests by villagers led to violent conflict with police, Mr. Lai Jinbiao was arrested on the charge of “illegally providing intelligence overseas.” Charges were dropped following his release.
On 19 October 2005, the co-founders of Green Watch were summoned by the Public Security Bureau of Hangzhou, Jianggan and Xihu after opening a bank account under Mr. Tan Kai’s name in preparation for fundraising efforts to meet its funding requirement. In order to operate lawfully as a local organization in China, the founders of Green Watch must have 30 000 yuan (nearly $4000 CAD) in funding capital. Before becoming legally established, however, its founders are not permitted to raise funds, placing the organization in a difficult situation as it could not pay the amount requested. Mr. Tan was placed in criminal detention while the others were released the same day. On November 15, 2005, Green Watch was declared illegal by the government of Zhejiang province. Since then, Mr. Tan’s relatives have been the target of threats and acts of intimidation.
On August 11, 2006, Mr. Tan Kai was sentenced to 18 months’ imprisonment for “illegally obtaining state secrets” by the Hangzhou Municipal People’s Intermediate Court. This charge was presumed to be linked to his job as a computer repair technician, though it was believed that the accusation was used as a pretext to prosecute Mr. Tan. He appealed the conviction. There was concern for Mr. Tan’s health while in detention as he suffers from a liver disease. He was released from prison in April of 2007.
The facts of this case appear to contradict article 13 of the Declaration on Human Rights Defenders, adopted by the UN General Assembly on December 9, 1998, which states that “everyone has the right, individually and in association with others, to solicit, receive and utilize resources for the express purpose of promoting and protecting human rights and fundamental freedoms through peaceful means, in accordance with article 3 of the present declaration.” China is a signatory to this declaration.
Letter by LRWC member Coller Levine sent on May 7, 2007.