SAN FRANCISCO (November 29, 2004) According to information received by The Dui Hua Foundation from China’s Ministry of Justice, Chen Gang (陈刚), a worker sentenced to life imprisonment for his role in organizing a large strike during the disturbances that swept China in 1989, was released from Hunan’s Longxi Prison on April 23, 2004. The journalist Wu Shishen (吴士深), sentenced to life in prison for leaking state secrets to a Hong Kong reporter in October 1992, has had his sentence reduced. He will be released from Beijing’s Number Two Prison on July 10, 2005.

The Ministry also provided information on a prisoner serving a life sentence for espionage handed down in May 1982, the Taiwanese serviceman Li Junmin (李俊敏). Li, who was 22 years old at the time of his conviction, is one of the longest-serving inmates serving a sentence for counterrevolution. Li has received at least three sentence reductions in the last three years and is now scheduled to be released from Shanghai’s Tilanqiao Prison on February 10, 2010.

Chen Gang was a leading member of the Xiangtan Worker’s Autonomous Federation in Hunan. He helped to organize a strike that shut down the Xiangtan Electrical Machinery Plant, one of the largest state-owned enterprises in Hunan, in the wake of the events in Beijing on June 4, 1989. It was originally reported that Chen Gang had been sentenced to death for “hooliganism” at a mass sentencing rally, but the information just received states that the sentence was life imprisonment. Chen’s sentence was commuted to 18 years in 1992 and subsequently reduced three times before he was granted a final reduction and released in April.

Three other individuals were reported to have been sentenced to life in prison for “hooliganism” together with Chen Gang: Peng Shi (彭实)Liu Zhihua (刘智华), and Liu Jian (刘健). According to information received previously, Peng Shi was due to have been released from Longxi Prison on September 4, 2004. Liu Zhihua’s life sentence has been commuted and his release date is currently set for January 16, 2011. The Chinese government has never provided information about Liu Jian.

Wu Shishen was an editor in the domestic news department of the Xinhua News Agency when he was arrested in November 1992 for providing an advance copy of Party leader Jiang Zemin’s speech before the upcoming 14th Party Congress to a Hong Kong reporter, Leung Wai-man. (Leung was expelled from China.) In April 1993, Wu was sentenced to life in prison by the Beijing Intermediate People’s Court. His wife Ma Tao has presumably been released after serving a six-year sentence. According to the information just received (which marks the first time the Chinese government has ever released information on Wu), the former editor’s sentence was commuted to 18-1/2 years imprisonment on March 11, 1996, and since then he has received several further sentence reductions. His release next July will take place less than 13 years after his detention. Under Chinese law, an individual sentenced to life in prison must serve at least ten years before becoming eligible for early release.

“The news that the Chinese government is granting sentence reductions and early releases to prisoners serving sentences for counterrevolution and hooliganism—two crimes removed from the criminal code in 1997—is very welcome,” said Dui Hua’s Executive Director John Kamm. “The names of Chen Gang and Wu Shishen have for many years been kept alive by human rights groups and governments engaged in human rights dialogues with China, and today’s news is in no small measure a result of their collective efforts.”

The Dui Hua Foundation
San Francisco, California
November 19, 2004