SAN FRANCISCO (September 12, 2016)—Veteran activist and writer Zhang Lin was released from Anhui’s Tongling Prison on September 9, 2016. He is currently residing in a government-provided apartment in his hometown of Bengbu, Anhui Province. As previously reported by some human rights groups and media outlets, he was due to be released on August 18, 2016, but the release was delayed for three weeks for reasons that are not clear.
Zhang spoke with members of his family the day of his release and told them that his health is good and that he was not mistreated in prison. He is currently serving a relatively short 24-day period of suspended political rights. During this period, he cannot give interviews, travel outside Bengbu, or apply for a passport. He must report as requested to the police.
The Anhui-based activist was detained on July 19, 2013 for organizing protests over Hefei authorities’ refusal to allow his youngest daughter, Anni, to attend a local school. A number of prominent activists, including Xu Zhiyong, joined Zhang in protesting his daughter’s treatment. (Xu, a prominent rights lawyer, is currently serving a four-year sentence for gathering a crowd to disrupt a public place in Beijing.)
Zhang was convicted of gathering a crowd to disrupt a public place and sentenced to three and a half years in prison in December 2013. His sentence was due to expire on January 18, 2017, but the remainder of his sentence was commuted on September 9, 2016.
Now 53 years old, Zhang has been sentenced five times for his political activism, serving a total of more than 16 years in prisons and re-education through labor (RTL) camps. He has spent half of his adult life in carceral facilities. He was first detained for organizing a hunger strike in Bengbu in support of the Tiananmen protests of 1989. He was convicted of counterrevolutionary propaganda and incitement and sentenced to two years in prison with one year subsequent deprivation of political rights. After his release, Zhang continued his activism, serving three years in a RTL camp for hooliganism (August 1994 to August 1997), another three years in a RTL camp for illegal border crossing (October 1998 to October 2001), and five years for inciting subversion (February 2005 to February 2010).
Zhang Lin’s daughters Anni and Ruli left China for the United States in September 2013 and settled in California, where they are being cared for by Ms. Reggie Littlejohn, a prominent women’s rights activist, and her husband. Since her arrival in the United States, Zhang Anni has blossomed into a talented pianist. She is scheduled to give a recital in New York’s Carnegie Hall in December.
The United States Department of State has monitored Zhang Lin’s case and frequently submitted lists of cases of concern with Zhang Lin’s name on them. Zhang told family members that he is grateful to the American government for their concern, and to the Chinese government for treating him well.
The Dui Hua Foundation has also worked vigorously on Zhang Lin’s case. Its executive director John Kamm first intervened on Zhang’s behalf in 1995, and most recently intervened on his behalf on a trip to Beijing in January 2016.
“We welcome Zhang Lin’s release from prison, and thank the authorities for commuting his sentence,” said Kamm. “I hope that the authorities grant Zhang a passport, and the US authorities a visa to enable him to see his daughters and attend Zhang Anni’s recital in Carnegie Hall.”