Suppression of Dissent

In July 2008, local governments in the Sichuan Province coordinated a campaign to silence angry parents whose children died during the earthquake through monetary contracts. If the parents refused, officials threatened that they would receive nothing. Although Chinese officials have advocated a policy of openness in time before the Olympic Games, the pressure on parents to sign demonstrates that officials are determined to create an appearance of public harmony rather than investigate into the corruption or negligence of the construction of schools. The payment amounts vary by school but are roughly the same. In Hanwang, parents were offered a package valued at 8,800 USD in cash and a per-parent pension of nearly 5,600 USD. Many parents said they signed the contract, even if no real investigation ensues. Furthermore, officials have continued to use traditional methods of silencing: riot police officers have broken up protests by parents; the authorities have set up cordons around the schools; and officials have ordered the Chinese news media to stop reporting on school collapses.

On July 25, 2008, Liu Shaokun (刘绍坤), a Sichuan school teacher, was detained for disseminating rumors and destroying social order. Liu's family was later told that he was being investigated on suspicion of the crime of inciting subversion. Liu, a teacher at Guanghan Middle School (四川省德阳市广汉中学), Deyang City, Sichuan Province, traveled to heavily hit areas after the May 12 Sichuan earthquake, took photos of collapsed school buildings, and put them online. In a media interview, he expressed his anger at "the shoddy 'tofu' buildings." Liu was detained on June 25, 2008 at his school. He was ordered to serve one year of re-education through labor. Under RTL regulations, public security authorities may issue an order to anyone to serve up to four years of RTL without trial or formal charge. After being denied several visits, the family turned to international human rights organizations, who reported the case and urged the government to release him, which drew attention in the international community. On September 26, 2008, Liu was finally released to serve his sentence outside of RTL.

Chinese human rights activist Huang Qi was also detained. Huang Qi is an active rights defender in China. he established an Internet service company in October 1998 to help search for missing people, and launched a website called Tianwang Xunren on June 4, 1999. Huang Qi was arrested on June 3, 2000, and sentenced to five years imprisonment on May 9, 2003 by the Chengdu Intermediate People's Court for the crime of inciting subversion of state power. During the Sichuan Earthquake, Huang Qi's work and his website were widely reported by media to help find missing people to unite family members. He also wrote many articles about families who lost their children. Although initially tolerating independent reporting, China's security forces have begun to clamp down on dissent and public complaints. According to Human Rights In China, sources inside China said that on the evening of June 10, 2008, Huang Qi, Pu Fei, a volunteer for Tianwang, and Zuo Xiaohuan, a former teacher at Leshan Teachers College were missing after they were forced into a car by unidentified individuals. In the afternoon of June 12, 2008, Lawyer Xu, Tianwang's legal counsel, went to the Jinyang Police Station of Chengdu to file a missing persons report. The police reportedly told Xu that Huang Qi has been detained, and that the related legal procedure notice would be sent to his family but refused to disclose the grounds for Huang's detention. Huang Qi's 74-year-old mother, Pu Wenqing, said that the family had not received any notice from the police over the past few days.

On June 12, a BBC journalist was briefly detained in Dujiangyan due to "danger of further aftershocks," and was advised to vacate the city. On June 17, a Hong-Kong-based human rights group reported that a retired professor, Zeng Hongling, was detained for "subversion" after publishing a critical essay titled ""My Personal Experience in the Earthquake." On June 20, two foreign journalists were detained for "working behind police cordons" at the site of a protest by parents in the town of Wufu.

Li Chengpeng wrote an article on the construction of schools in Beichuan in 2008, and in a 2012 column published by The New York Times stated that man named Gou Yandong had been responsible for the building of six schools that did not suffer damage in the earthquake, but that Gou had since been forcibly treated for non-existent mental health problems.