Free 1989 Pro-Democracy Figures Incarcerated Today for Keeping Up Fight for JusticeComments Off on Free 1989 Pro-Democracy Figures Incarcerated Today for Keeping Up Fight for Justice
(Network of Chinese Human Rights Defenders—May 31, 2017) – Twenty-eight years after the Chinese government’s bloody suppression of the pro-democracy movement in China, many participants in the 1989 protests are currently detained or imprisoned for continuing their advocacy for human rights, rule of law, and democratic reforms. These individuals played leadership roles or joined the protests in 1989 as young students, professors, journalists, writers, or factory workers. Some had served prison terms for their role in the movement and resumed their democracy and human rights activities after being released. Punishments for former 1989 participants are often harsher than for other prisoners, as authorities treat them as “recidivists” with “political motivation” to challenge the legitimacy of the one-party-ruled authoritarian state.
The last known individual to have been imprisoned for participating in the Tiananmen protests, Miao Deshun (苗德顺), is believed to have been released in October 2016, after he had been incarcerated for over 27 years. Although Miao should now be “free,” the government has not made public any information about him, as authorities continue to actively censor information about the events of 1989.
Every year near the anniversary, the government takes numerous measures to prevent citizens from memorializing victims from June Fourth, either as individuals, online, in private groups, or in public expressions of grief. Around this time, Chinese police have commonly summoned many activists for questioning, forced them to travel, put them under house arrest, or administratively or criminally detained them. The government’s policy of erasing the Tiananmen pro-democracy protests and the crackdown from textbooks and public discussions has led to an amnesia about that critical piece of Chinese history among younger generations today. Many of the former 1989 participants persecuted for their continued activism have strived, as part of their rights advocacy, to keep alive memories of victims, support the struggle of their families to seek justice, and demand the government investigate the massacre and compensate victims’ families.
CHRD urges the Chinese government to: end its blockade on public discussions and commemoration of the victims of the Tiananmen Massacre; allow independent investigation and hold criminally accountable those responsible for the massacre; end its ongoing crackdown on civil society and human rights activism; and free human rights defenders from prison, detention, residential surveillance, or suspended sentence.
CHRD has documented 24 cases involving 1989 protests leaders and participants, who are currently detained or imprisoned in China for post-Tiananmen rights activism:
Serving prison sentences (18, in chronological order of imprisonment):
- Jiangsu writer Yang Tongyan (杨同彦) has been serving a 12-year sentence since 2006 for his political activism. He was jailed for 10 years for participating in the 1989 movement.
- China Democracy Party member Xie Changfa (谢长发), from Hunan, has been serving a 13-year sentence since 2009 for his work with that political party. He spent two years in a Re-education through Labor camp for supporting the 1989 movement.
- Nobel Peace Prize winner Liu Xiaobo (刘晓波), based in Beijing, has been serving an 11-year sentence since 2009 for his leading role in the “Charter 08” campaign. A university lecturer in 1989, he was jailed for 18 months for taking part in the 1989 movement.
- China Democracy Party member Liu Xianbin (刘贤斌) of Sichuan has been serving a 10-year sentence since 2011 for his advocacy. He served 30 months in prison for participating in the 1989 movement.
- Sichuan activist Chen Wei (陈卫) has been serving a nine-year sentence since 2011 for his human rights activism. A student in 1989, Chen was imprisoned after June Fourth and released in 1991.
- Guizhou-based activist Chen Xi (陈西) has been serving a 10-year sentence since 2011 for his human rights advocacy. He served a three-year sentence for participating in the 1989 movement.
- Writer Zhu Yufu (朱虞夫) of Hangzhou has been serving a seven-year sentence since 2012 for his democracy and human rights advocacy. He took part in the 1989 movement while working in Hangzhou.
- Poet Li Bifeng (李必丰) of Sichuan has been serving a 10-year sentence since 2012 for his activism. He served five years in prison for his role in the 1989 movement.
- Xinjiang activist Zhao Haitong (赵海通) has been serving a 14-year sentence since 2014 for his activities as a human rights defender. He was jailed in the aftermath of the 1989 massacre.
- Guangdong activist Guo Feixiong (郭飞雄) has been serving a six-year sentence since 2015 for his human rights activism. Guo took part in the 1989 movement as a student in Shanghai.
- Buddhist monk Wu Zeheng (吴泽衡) has been serving a life sentence since 2015 for the exercise of his freedom of religion. A student leader in 1989, Wu was convicted in Guangdong and now is reportedly serving his sentence in Xinjiang.
- Activist Tang Jingling (唐荆陵) of Guangdong has been serving a five-year sentence since 2016 for his activism. Tang participated in the 1989 movement as a student.
- Buddhist monk Sheng Guan (圣观, aka Xu Zhiqiang, 徐志强) has been serving a four-year sentence since 2016 for exercising his rights to free expression and assembly. Xu was jailed for a year for participating in the 1989 movement while studying in Xi’an.
- China Democracy Party member Chen Shuqing (陈树庆) of Hangzhou has been serving a 10.5-year since 2016 for his pro-democracy advocacy. In 1989, Chen participated in the movement as a university student.
- China Democracy Party member Lü Gengsong (吕耿松) has been serving an 11-year sentence since 2016 for his pro-democracy advocacy. Lü was a teacher in Hangzhou who was dismissed in 1993 for supporting the democracy movement.
- Beijing-based activist Hu Shigen (胡石根) has been serving a 7.5-year sentence since 2016 for his advocacy campaigns around legal cases. Hu was a teacher at Beijing Language and Culture School in 1989 and later served 16 years of a 20-year prison sentence, handed down in part for trying to share information on the 1989 movement.
- Beijing-based lawyer Xia Lin (夏霖) has been serving a 10-year sentence (reduced on appeal) since 2016 for his professional work as a lawyer. Xia participated in the 1989 movement as a student at the Southwest Institute of Political Science and Law in Chongqing.
- Sichuan activist Chen Yunfei (陈云飞) has been serving a four-year sentence since 2017, in part for organizing a memorial to June Fourth victims. Chen participated in the 1989 movement as a student at the China Agricultural University in Beijing.
Tried and awaiting verdict (1):
- Guangzhou authorities tried activist Liu Shaoming (刘少明) in April 2016 on charges of “inciting subversion of state power” for writing online articles about the 1989 movement. Liu was jailed for a year after taking part in the demonstrations in 1989.
Pre-trial detention (2):
- Chongqing authorities arrested activist Jiang Yefei (姜野飞) in May 2016 on suspicion of “subversion of state power” and “organizing others to illegally cross borders” after he was deported from Thailand in November 2015, and despite obtaining UN refugee status. He participated in the 1989 movement as a student.
- Sichuan activist Chen Bing (陈兵) was indicted in April 2017 along with three others on charges of “inciting subversion of state power” for helping to produce and promote wine bottles that alluded to remembering June Fourth. Chen was a student in Nanchong City, Sichuan and participated in the 1989 movement. He is the twin brother of Chen Wei (above).
Convicted and serving time outside jail or suspended sentence (3):
- Veteran journalist Gao Yu (高瑜) is serving a five-year sentence outside of prison in Beijing after receiving medical parole in November 2015. She had originally received a seven-year sentence in April 2015 for advocating for press freedom. Gao joined the 1989 protests and wrote critical articles about the government’s suppression, and was subsequently detained twice and served six years in prison.
- Beijing-based human rights lawyer Pu Zhiqiang (浦志强) received a three-year suspended sentence in December 2015 and was stripped of his law license as a result of his conviction. Under the terms of his sentence, he must submit to supervision, report his activities to police, and faces the possibility of being sent to prison. Pu was a student leader in 1989 and took part in the hunger strike in Tiananmen Square.
- Beijing-based activist Zhai Yanmin (翟岩民) received a three-year suspended sentence in August 2016 in the “709 Crackdown” on human rights lawyers and their supporters. He must wear an electronic tracking device and his freedom of movement and communications are severely restricted. He can be sent to prison if authorities deem that he has committed any criminal offenses during the period when his punishment is suspended. Zhai had participated in the 1989 movement as a student.
Renee Xia, International Director (Mandarin, English), +1 863 866 1012, reneexia[at]nchrd.org, Follow on Twitter: @ReneeXiaCHRD
Victor Clemens, Researcher (English), +1 628 400 7198, victorclemens[at]nchrd.org, Follow on Twitter: @VictorClemens
Frances Eve, Researcher (English), +852 6695 4083, franceseve[at]nchrd.org, Follow on Twitter: @FrancesEveCHRD