WASHINGTON — The US House of Representatives on Saturday threw its support behind two Chinese activists put on trial after investigating whether shoddy construction led to children's deaths in last year's Sichuan earthquake.
In a nearly unanimous vote, the House approved a resolution saying it "expresses its support" for activists Huang Qi and Tan Zuoren and calling on China to guarantee their rights to free speech and fair trials.
Huang and Tan went on separate trials in August on respective charges of possessing state secrets and subversion, although human rights groups believe they were targeted due to their activism after the Sichuan earthquake.
Huang, the founder of a human rights website, posted parents' demands for an investigation and spent nearly 14 months in detention before going on trial. Tan, a writer, led calls for an independent probe into school construction.
The earthquake in southwestern China left nearly 88,000 people dead or missing.
Schools bore the brunt of the tragedy, with thousands collapsing on top of students, fueling angry charges from parents that corruption had led to shoddy construction.
"Huang Qi and Tan Zuoren are two courageous individuals who sought to hold the Chinese regime accountable for its gross negligence," said Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, the top Republican on the Foreign Affairs Committee.
"These two brave men sought answers for the grieving parents of these children, but their efforts led to their own imprisonment on trumped up charges, followed by trials in kangaroo courts," she said.
"The United States must not be silent in the face of such injustice," she said on the House floor Friday.
A total of 426 members of Congress voted for the resolution. The only lawmaker to vote no was Republican Ron Paul, who usually opposes such appeals on the grounds that they unjustly interfere in other nations' affairs.
Another seven lawmakers did not vote.
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