Scores of individuals still remain behind bars for activities connected to the 1989 pro-democracy demonstrations in Beijing and other cities throughout China. Most of them received suspended death sentences or life sentences for crimes such as arson, theft, and assault and, as a result, have received less attention from the outside world than others convicted of the speech-and-association crimes associated with “counterrevolution.”
The Dui Hua Foundation believes that most of these individuals ended up in prison after being swept up in violent protests over the Chinese government’s handling of largely peaceful calls for democratic reform and increased rights for workers. Dui Hua considers the crackdowns that took place during this period to have been an error that should be rectified and that one way to begin this process would be to free all who remain imprisoned in connection with those events.
Because of this, Dui Hua has made a point of continuing to follow up on many of the lesser-known cases from that period in an effort to track those individuals and increase awareness about their current status. Below is some information that Dui Hua recently received.
Li Weihong: First Response Since 1991
On August 29, Dui Hua issued a statement announcing that Hunan factory worker Li Weihong (李卫红) is due for release from Hunan’s Chishan Prison in November 2007 following a fifth sentence reduction earlier this year. News of Li’s imminent release came in the first known response to a request for information about him since a response to the US State Department in 1991.
Li was a 21-year-old worker at the Hunan Fire Fighting Equipment Factory in Changsha when he became involved in organizing street protests that turned violent. Detained on April 23, 1989, Li is the longest-serving prisoner known to Dui Hua to be imprisoned for activities during the wave of protest activity that began that month and ended after the bloody crackdown in Beijing on June 4. Convicted of “hooliganism”—a crime that no longer exists under Chinese law—Li was sentenced to a suspended death sentence later commuted to life imprisonment. Additional sentence reductions in 1995, 1997, 2001, and 2007 have pushed up his expected release date to November 11, 2007.
Liu Zhihua: No Further Reductions Pending
Three years ago, in the Fall 2004 issue of Dialogue, Dui Hua provided an update on the case of Liu Zhihua (刘智华), a former factory worker from Xiangtan, Hunan Province. Liu was one of several workers arrested following an incident connected to efforts to organize a strike in June 1989. Convicted of assault and “hooliganism,” Liu was sentenced to life imprisonment in October 1989. Liu’s sentence had been commuted to 15 years’ imprisonment in 1993, but he was later given a sentence extension for committing assault while imprisoned.
Dui Hua sought to find out whether Liu had received any change in his sentence since the last-known reduction of two years in June 2001. This past August, we received a detailed report on Liu’s status: On two occasions, in 2003 and 2005, Liu was placed in solitary confinement for resisting labor assignments and showing a “poor attitude.” Since then, however, his attitude has “stabilized” and he has obeyed prison rules and met production targets. Nevertheless, he is not presently in line for additional sentence reductions and remains due for release from Hunan’s Loudi Prison on January 16, 2011.
Shi Qing: Response Provides Sentencing Information
Dui Hua also recently learned about the fate of Shi Qing (石清), leader of an obscure opposition party convicted of counterrevolutionary activities around the time of the 1989 pro-democracy demonstrations. According to knowledgeable sources inside China, Shi served seven years of an eight-year prison sentence. He has reportedly since emigrated to Canada.
According to a September 1989 Yunnan Daily account, Shi was a 27-year-old from Jiangsu Province who fled to the city of Kunming in July of that year after publicly condemning the government’s crackdown on demonstrators at a railway station in Zhuzhou, Hunan Province. After arriving in Kunming, he and six other “idlers and ex-convicts” from other parts of the country allegedly organized the “Chinese Democratic Communist Party” and engaged in anti-government propaganda, hanging banners and posting statements aimed at overthrowing the one-party system.
News of Shi’s arrest was reported in the Chinese press, but Dui Hua had been unable to find any additional reporting of his subsequent whereabouts. Shi was first asked about by US Secretary of State James Baker in 1991, but the Chinese government had never provided any information about him. Dui Hua spent nearly two years raising Shi’s case through various channels in China and finally learned this past July that the Kunming Intermediate People’s Court had sentenced him to eight years’ imprisonment in February 1990 for the crime of “leading and organizing a counterrevolutionary group.” During his incarceration in Yunnan Number Two Prison, Shi was granted a one-year sentence reduction for good behavior and released on September 15, 1996.