The earthquake that struck Sichuan Province on May 12 numbed the entire country and all those who care about China and its people. Within days, the numbers of dead, injured, missing, and displaced mounted, and the world turned sympathetically to offer aid to the suffering areas. The devastation took on huge proportions: at least 70,000 lost their lives, including a large number of schoolchildren crushed in their classrooms. With the ensuing aftershocks, the danger of flooding and further destruction lingered, and hundreds of thousands were evacuated to safer ground. Thousands in the worst-hit areas still remain unaccounted for.
On July 2, Jude Shao, an American businessman who had been incarcerated in Shanghai since April 1998, walked out of Qingpu Prison after being released on parole. A graduate of Stanford University’s School of Business and a Shanghai native, Shao was arrested in that city on charges of fraud and tax evasion tied to his medical-equipment export business—charges that many believe were concocted by authorities. Sentenced in 2000 to 16 years’ imprisonment, Shao had served over 10 years in prison by the time of his parole.
Societies have many reasons for imprisoning their citizens. They may use penal systems to punish or deter criminal actions, to incapacitate those deemed a threat to society, or to reform or correct illegal or socially unacceptable behavior. Regardless of the stated purposes of its penal system, every nation must contend with the fact that the individuals in its prisons were once members of a free society and that most will eventually be released back into the communities from which they came. Prison systems must balance the need to separate a prisoner from society and the legal requirements to keep a prisoner connected to family and friends on the outside.
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.
In late March and early April of 2002, police in Ningde, Fujian Province, arrested Li Jianfeng (李建峰) and seven others who were suspected of subversion. Li, a 40-year-old former judge with the commercial tribunal of the city’s intermediate people’s court, was charged with organizing an illegal labor union and illegal possession of firearms, but he and the others rejected the allegations as complete fabrications used by police out to frame them.
Dui Hua submits recommendations for UN High Level Segment; Kamm authors book chapter; media coverage of Dui Hua grows; notes from the Hong Kong office.