Dui Hua focuses its advocacy work on uncovering the names of little-known political prisoners through both research of official Chinese publications and analysis of other documents issued by government bodies. Once identified, names are placed onto prisoner lists that Dui Hua submits to the Chinese government. The foundation follows up on these names until more information on their cases is obtained. The cases here are especially good examples of Dui Hua’s research and advocacy methods.
The Fate of The Freedom Press Journalists
In March 1983, three workers in Fuzhou, the capital of Fujian Province, printed 300 copies of a counterrevolutionary newspaper called The Freedom Press (自由报). Two issues of the paper were published and distributed, and some were pasted up along busy streets. In July of the same year, the Fuzhou Public Security Bureau’s political security section, which is in charge of investigating political crimes, solved the case and arrested Chen Biling (陈碧龄), Chen Renjie
(陈人杰), and Lin Youping (林佑平).
They were accused of espionage (for writing letters to a Guomindang espionage organ) and counterrevolutionary propaganda and incitement, and then convicted in August 1983, barely a month after their arrest. Because China’s first “Strike Hard” campaign had just been launched, heavy sentences were handed down by the Fuzhou Intermediate People’s Court: Chen Biling was sentenced to death, Lin Youping was sentenced to death with two-year reprieve, and Chen Renjie was sentenced to life in prison.
The Supreme People’s Court ratified the death sentence for Chen Biling, and he became one of dozens of people executed that year for counterrevolutionary crimes. The fate of Chen Renjie and Lin Youping remained shrouded in mystery. Human rights groups and media watchdogs listed them as the two longest-serving journalists imprisoned by China. Beginning in 2001, the year Dui Hua uncovered an account of the case, their names appeared on lists submitted to the Chinese government. Finally, in June 2008, some information was provided by a reliable source in Fujian.
According to the source, Chen Renjie’s life sentence was commuted to 17 years’ imprisonment on April 25, 1988. His sentence was subsequently reduced by two years on April 22, 1991, by three years on October 30, 1993, by 18 months on October 19, 1995, and by nine months on January 5, 1998. Shortly after the last reduction, Chen Renjie was released from prison.
The source found no information on Lin Youping in Fujian’s prison records. Perhaps he was executed at the end of the two-year suspension period, or maybe he died while in the detention center. It is also possible that Liu’s records have been misplaced. Only continued inquiry will reveal his fate for certain.
Chen Jianguo, Jinan Subversive, Released Early
Chen Jianguo (陈建国) established the China National Freedom Party (中国国家自由党) in Shandong Province in 1999, shortly after getting out of prison for counterrevolutionary propaganda and incitement. He was detained in September 1999 and subsequently sentenced to 12 years’ imprisonment for the crime of subversion. Chen is said to have recruited members of the new party, which plotted to end state ownership and China’s socialist system. According to an account in a local Chinese newspaper unearthed by Dui Hua, Chen plotted to go to Hong Kong to make contact with the US Consulate and seek support for his plans (see Dialogue 19 for more information (PDF)).
Chen’s conviction marked the first time a court in Jinan, capital of Shandong Province, had sentenced someone for subversion since the amended Criminal Law came into effect in October 1997. His trial in 2000 was one of 318 trials for endangering state security heard in Chinese courts that year.
In January 2005, Dui Hua learned that Chen had received a one-year sentence reduction in 2004. In March 2008, Dui Hua received confirmation from an official source that Chen had been given three more sentence reductions and that he had been released on April 27, 2007, four-and-a-half years sooner than his original sentence was to be completed. Being granted four sentence reductions over a period of three years is very rare in the Chinese prison system.
Chen’s early release appears to fit a recent trend. Since March, Dui Hua has received information on 20 political prisoners convicted of subversion since 1999, including those from Fujian Province profiled above. These prisoners were all involved in setting up illegal political parties or other organizations, and none of them were well-known in the West. Ten of the prisoners received sentence reductions over the past two years, of whom seven have been released. Further details and Dui Hua’s analysis of these prisoner cases can be read in the Human Rights Journal section of the foundation’s web site.