Chinese police officers take away parents who lost children to the early May earthquake and kneeled outside a courthouse in Sichuan province on June 3. ((Ng Han Guan/Associated Press))

A teacher who posted photos of collapsed schools on the internet after a devastating earthquake in China's Sichuan province has been ordered to serve a year of "re-education through labour," a New York-based rights group said Wednesday.

Liu Shaokun, a teacher at Guanghan Middle School in Deyang City, Sichuan, travelled to hard-hit areas after the May 12 earthquake to photograph the schools and spoke of "shoddy tofu buildings" in a media interview, Human Rights in China said in a statement.

As they prepare to welcome the world to the Beijing Olympics, image-conscious Chinese authorities have arrested people in protests by parents whose children died in Sichuan's flattened schools.

Many families have accused builders of cutting corners in collusion with local officials, leaving schools at the mercy of forces that barely damaged solidly built structures. The earthquake killed nearly 70,000 people, including large numbers of school kids.

According to the human rights group, Liu's legal problems unfolded this way:

  • When he was detained June 25 at his school, the principal was told he was being held for "disseminating rumours and destroying social order."
  •  Officials later told his family he was being investigated on "suspicion of the crime of inciting subversion."
  • On July 23, his wife was informed that there was a letter from her husband to pick up at the Guanghan City Public Security Bureau.
  • When she arrived, she was given a re-education notice bearing Liu’s signature and fingerprints but not the term he would serve.
  • After she demanded to know how and why he was placed in re-education, she was told that he would serve a year for "inciting a disturbance."

Public security authorities may issue an order to anyone to serve up to four years of re-education without trial or formal charge, the group said.