Chinese environmentalist faces trial on questionable charges

Chinese environmental activist Tan Kai went on trial yesterday, facing charges widely considered dubious. Inspired by protests in the province of Zhejiang, where residents say chemical plants are destroying crops and causing birth defects, Tan and five others informally launched a group called Green Watch last summer. In October, Tan, a computer technician, was arrested and charged with “illegally obtaining state secrets” after performing a routine backup on a computer belonging to a member of the Zhejiang Communist Party committee. A month later, Green Watch was declared illegal and banned. Said a statement from one human-rights group, “This case raises serious concerns about yet another example of the politicized use of state-secrets charges to silence and intimidate grassroots activists.” Hey now, no need to drag the Bush administration into this.