Yang Tongyan (杨同彦)

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Yang Tongyan (杨同彦)

Yang Tongyan  杨同彦

(released on medical parole)


Crime:  Subversion of state power

Length of Punishment: 12 years’ imprisonment, additional 4 years’ deprivation of political rights

Court:  Zhenjiang Intermediate People’s Court

Trial date: May 16, 2006

Sentencing date: May 16, 2006

Dates of Detention/Arrest: December 23, 2005 (detained), January 20, 2006 (arrested)

Verdict: Zhenjiang (Jiangsu) Intermediate People’s Court (Chinese only)

Date of Birth: April 12, 1961

Medical condition(s): Tuberculosis, diabetes, nephritis, hepatitis, hypertension, arthritis

Place of Incarceration: Nanjing Prison (Nanjing City, Jiangsu Province)


Yang Tongyan (pen name: Yang Tianshui, 杨天水) is a dissident writer and member of the Independent Chinese PEN Center. Beginning in 2006, Tang served a prison sentence in Nanjing Prison for “subversion of state power” for his role in organizing the China Democracy Party (中国民主党). He was released on medical parole on August 16, 2017, after authorities for years had denied him such clemency. Four days before his release, Yang’s family learnt from the prison that Yang had been diagnosed with a brain tumor, and that the prison would grant medical parole if they applied. However, the family was also told he would not be allowed to go overseas for medical treatment, as he was still technically a “prisoner” under Chinese law.

Yang has suffered from a myriad of illnesses, including intestinal tuberculosis, tuberculosis peritonitis (in the abdomen lining), diabetes, nephritis (kidney inflammation or infection), high blood pressure, and arthritis. Yang’s family applied for medical parole in December 2012. Prison authorities rejected this request in early January 2013, saying that his chronic illnesses can be treated in prison. Yang was hospitalized the next month, however, and authorities still refused to release him. His family also reported that Nanjing Prison spends just 3 RMB per prisoner each month on medical expenses. Yang had previously been in critical condition in prison and was taken to a hospital in September 2009. Yang’s sister visited him on October 27, 2009 and said that he had become so thin that he was unrecognizable; his family had applied for Yang’s release on medical parole, but the request was denied in 2010.

Born on April 12, 1961, Yang has published numerous political essays online advocating for democracy and political reform, as well as poems, novels, short stories, and memos—many of which were written while in prison—critical of the Chinese government. Between 1990 and 2000, Yang was imprisoned for 10 years for organizing the China Democratic Alliance (中华民主联盟). The PEN American Center named Yang as recipient of its 2008 PEN/Barbara Goldsmith Freedom to Write Award, which honors international literary figures who have been persecuted or imprisoned for exercising or defending the right to freedom of expression.

Further Information

CHRD’s Watch List of Detainees and Prisoners of Conscience in Need of Medical Attention

“Several Activists and Dissidents Languish in Detention despite Serious Illnesses” (November 5, 2009)

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