Dui Hua recently received information on prisoners in Sichuan and Guangdong from reliable sources in local Chinese governments. In Sichuan, three individuals received sentence reductions, two were released, and two passed away in custody. In Guangdong, one person is awaiting approval for commutation of a life sentence.

Clemency, Death for Militia Members

In 1996, Southwest Buddha League headquarters was in Daheidong Cave, in Luzhou, Sichuan. Photo credit: lzsta.gov.cn

Armed rebellion is one of 12 crimes under the category of endangering state security. In 1999, the Luzhou Intermediate People’s Court applied this crime to a dozen individuals who participated in an anti-government militia called the Southwest Buddha League (西南佛联盟). Guizhou native Chen Faqing (陈发清) founded the militia in Yongxu County, Sichuan, in the early 1990s. Official sentencing records report that Chen aimed to overthrow the Communist regime and save the Chinese people from an apocalypse that he said would occur between 1997 and 2000. The militia issued its own work permits, organized an independent household registration system, and established more than 30 bureaucratic divisions and a military academy. At its peak, the Southwest Buddha League had 1,120 registered members, according to provincial statistics.

The militia attempted to stage an armed rebellion in April 1998 after two members were detained. On June 5, armed police surrounded the group’s stronghold in Gulin County, detaining 48 core leaders and confiscating more than 400 pounds of explosives. The most lenient sentence in the case was three years in prison. However, Chen and three others were sentenced to death.

Another three were sentenced to 15 years’ imprisonment: two of them were released early, while the third died in custody. Chen Yunhua (陈云华) was released on November 7, 2011, after receiving a 19-month sentence reduction. Zeng Xiangui (曾显桂) received four sentence reductions totaling 60 months between 2002 and 2008. Zeng was released on June 7, 2008. Luo Tiangui (罗天贵) died from an unspecified illness on October 28, 2005. He was not reported to have received any sentence reductions.

June 4 Protester Deceased

After the suppression of the Beijing pro-democracy protests in the spring of 1989, Ni Erfu (倪耳福) joined the “riots” that befell Chengdu. As a result, he was sentenced to life imprisonment for “hooliganism.” Three years later, the Sichuan High People’s Court commuted his sentenced to 18.5 years’ imprisonment, and in 1995, Ni’s sentence was reduced by another 18 months. Despite early instances of clemency, Ni died of acute myocarditis on October 23, 1997. His age and background are unknown. Hooliganism was removed as a crime from China’s Criminal Law in 1997.

Party Tightens Controls on Sentence Reduction

An application to commute the life sentence of Guangdong prisoner Wang Ruiquan (王瑞泉) was submitted to higher authorities in April 2013, but a decision has yet to be issued. Wang is a former air force logistics officer and one of only five individuals known to have been convicted of Taiwanese espionage since Ma Ying-jeou became Taiwan’s president in 2008.

Prison officers review applications for sentence reduction before submitting them to wardens and finally to people’s courts for review. Judicial review has historically been a rubber stamp process, but in 2010 Chinese media reported that some courts began holding public hearings to check against favoritism or other improprieties.

In February 2014, the Central Politico-Legal Committee issued a guiding opinion tightening controls on sentence reduction and parole. The Guangdong High People’s Court suspended review of 135 sentence reduction and parole applications the same day. Focusing on occupational crimes, disrupting financial administrative order and financial fraud, and organized crime, the opinion is likely to have implications for former party officials like Chongqing’s Bo Xilai.

Tibetan Incarcerated 300 Miles from Residence

Donkho (容科) was one of the three Tibetan writers sentenced in December 2010 for writing articles related to the Tibetan protests that occurred in March 2008. He has not received any sentence reductions and is scheduled to complete a four-year sentence for inciting splittism on June 20, 2014. Donkho is incarcerated in Mianyang Prison, located more than 300 miles from Hongyuan, his home county. No information was provided in response to inquiries regarding Phurdan (布旦), another defendant in the case who received a four-year sentence. Kelsang Jinpa (格桑珍柏), the third defendant in the case, completed his three-year sentence in July 2013. ■