American Citizens Return Home
American businessman Jude Shao (邵裘德) returned to the United States in May 2013 after spending five years on parole in Shanghai. Shao (pictured at right with Dui Hua’s Executive Director John Kamm in May 2013) was arrested in April 1998 and given a 16-year sentence for fraud and tax evasion in March 2000. He received one sentence reduction for good behavior and was paroled in July 2008 after “acknowledging the verdict.” The Stanford Business School graduate maintains his innocence. His peers and members of the US government, in particular President George W. Bush, repeatedly raised his case with then President Hu Jintao. Shao told Dui Hua that the interventions by his support group and Dui Hua as well as government actors significantly improved how he was treated in prison and contributed to his parole. While serving in Shanghai’s Qingpu Prison from 2000 to 2008, Shao saw the number of incarcerated foreign nationals grow from 12 to 120. Most were drug traffickers but there were also foreign businessmen of Chinese descent who were convicted of crimes involving commercial transactions gone bad.
Official sources informed Dui Hua in April that American citizen David Dong Wei (董维) was released early in September 2012 and has likely returned to US soil. Dong’s case was raised on at least 10 prisoner lists and was the subject of 10 responses from Chinese officials. His sentence was reduced by a total of four years. Dong was detained while visiting Guangzhou on a Louisiana trade delegation in September 2003. Charged with spying for Taiwan and lobbying the US government on Taiwan’s behalf, he was sentenced to 13 years’ imprisonment in a closed trial in April 2005.
Labor Leader Released 5 Years Early
Li Jianfeng (李建峰), a 48-year-old labor activist and former judge from Ningde, Fujian Province, was released after serving 11 years of a 16-year prison sentence on April 2, 2013, according to official documents posted by Human Rights in China. Li was detained when President Xi Jinping was party secretary in Fujian province. Prosecutors charged Li and seven other defendants with organizing an illegal labor union and plotting to shoot out the windows of the Ningde Intermediate People’s Court. The defendants denied the charges and claimed that police tortured them and fabricated evidence. Li was convicted of subversion and weapons charges in 2003.
Dui Hua began efforts to secure better treatment and early release for Li in 2004, including him in about a dozen prisoner lists and several publications over the last nine years. His first of three sentence reductions came in the year after the Chinese government sent its first correspondence on Li to a foreign government—correspondence in response to a prisoner list submitted during the Sino-Norwegian Human Rights Dialogue. Li’s sentence was reduced by 17–18 months in December 2007 and by 21 months in August 2010, according to Chinese government responses. Dui Hua inquired about Li’s case twice in 2013 prior to his April release. The other individuals sentenced in the case have been released, most after receiving sentence reductions.
June 4 “Counterrevolutionary” Released at Age 73
Dui Hua believes that less than a handful of people remain in prison for crimes committed during the largely student-led protests that culminated in the Tiananmen Massacre on June 4, 1989. Nationwide, a total of 1,602 people were imprisoned during the “two disturbances,” which refers to the protests in Beijing and in other cities, for various crimes including the now defunct offense of counterrevolution.
In October or November 2012, China’s prison authorities apparently released the last individual known to be incarcerated in Beijing for counterrevolutionary crimes committed the during protests. Based on an official notice citing his impending release, 73-year-old Jiang Yaqun (姜亚群) suffers from Alzheimer’s and has no family or home to return to. Detained in his late forties, Jiang was sentenced to death with two-year reprieve by the Beijing High People’s Court for counterrevolutionary sabotage on July 17, 1990. His sentence was commuted to life in prison and further reduced on five occasions, but the details of his actions are unknown. Diagnosed with “mild mental retardation,” Jiang was transferred in 1993 to Yanqing Prison, which has a special ward for elderly, weak, ill, and disabled prisoners. (Read Dui Hua’s Press Statement)
Tianjin Protestor “Wins” Sentence Reduction
Dui Hua submitted to Chinese authorities a list of 14 prisoners in Tianjin Municipality, including nine women, in April 2013. Within three weeks, we received a response confirming one sentence reduction and stating the release dates of all but one of the prisoners, whose name was reportedly not found. The response corroborates information about sentence lengths and charges reported by civil society groups.
Ding Shuyin (丁树银) received a sentence reduction of one year and seven months as a reward—the reason for which is unspecified—and is currently scheduled for release on November 12, 2017. Ding was one of 30 farmers arrested in Dongzhou Village, Wuqing District, in December 2006 for blocking railroad construction on lands that were illegally requisitioned, according to Radio Free Asia. In June 2007, prison sentences ranging from 2–12.5 years were handed down to 14 of the protestors. Ding’s sister told RFA that Ding was not allowed visitors for the nearly six months of her pre-trial detention and that the family was not given advanced notice of the trial or given a copy of the verdict. Ding was sentenced to 12.5 years in prison for “disrupting official business” and “gathering a crowd to disturb traffic.” Her case was included in a list of cases of concern prior to the 2011 US-China Human Rights Dialogue. This is the first Chinese government response regarding her case.
The Tianjin list also included Zhang Peixin (张培馨) and her husband Qi Fangjun (齐方军), who are scheduled for release in mid to late 2015. Zhang and Qi were sentenced to five and four and a half years, respectively, for “causing a serious disturbance”—sometimes derided to as a “pocket crime” for its vagueness. A criminal verdict posted on Human Rights Campaign in China says that the pair was detained for distributing leaflets about their petitioning and setting fire to their car—while seated inside—near Tiananmen Square during the National Day holiday in October 2010. Zhang is blind and ethnically Hui; among other allegations including their children’s illegal confinement and inability to observe an Islamic diet, the couple was reportedly aggrieved that Zhang was unable to obtain social security payments for her disability.
Falun Gong practitioners sentenced to 3–10 years’ imprisonment rounded out the list. While we have received information on sentence reductions for Falun Gong practitioners in the past, the lack of such information for these individuals may be due to the fact that most were sentenced relatively recently or had yet to serve out much of their lengthy sentences. Falun Gong practitioners are one of several groups classified as “important prisoners” (PDF link, p.7), who face tighter restrictions on sentence reductions.