Executive Director Kamm discusses Dui Hua’s work at Boston University in March 2016.

Dui Hua Hits the East Coast for Research, Speaking Engagements

Dui Hua Executive Director John Kamm and Research Assistant Ricky Hui traveled to Cambridge, Massachusetts, in the last week of March to conduct research and address students and faculties at Boston University and Harvard Law School. Research yielded information on more than 180 individuals detained in political cases since 1980. Indicating the sensitivity of the cases, authorities obscured the suspects’ or defendants’ names in about half of the case materials.

At the invitation of Professor Joe Fewsmith, Kamm addressed 30 students at Boston University’s stately Castle on March 29. Students showed interest in Dui Hua’s work promoting the United Nations Standards for the Treatment of Women Prisoners and Non-Custodial Measures for Women Offenders (the Bangkok Rules).

On March 31, Kamm addressed nearly 100 students in Professor William Alford’s class on Chinese law at Harvard Law School. After presenting an overview of China’s criminal justice system and illustrative cases, Kamm reviewed Dui Hua’s four areas of concentration: political and religious prisoners, juvenile offenders, women in prison, and those facing the death penalty. A lively question and answer period followed the lecture.

A special screening of Bridge of Spies—the Steven Spielberg film that tells a story of prisoner exchanges between the United States and Soviet Union in the early 1960s—took place the evening before the law school lecture. Attendees joined Kamm in comparing and contrasting these prisoner negotiations with those currently occurring between the United States and China.

While at Harvard, Kamm discussed recent developments in Greater China with Charlotte Ikels, Professor of Anthropology Emeritus at Case Western Reserve University; Rod MacFarquhar, Leroy B. Williams Professor of History and Political Science at Harvard University; and Ezra Vogel, Henry Ford II Professor of the Social Sciences Emeritus at Harvard University.

Following their week in Cambridge, Kamm and Hui travelled to New Haven, where Kamm gave a public lecture at Yale University, and to New York, where he spoke at a seminar at New York University School of Law and taught a class on Chinese human rights diplomacy at Columbia University. From New York, Kamm flew to Geneva to embark on a three-week trip that will include Berne, Oslo, Stockholm, and Copenhagen. These activities will be covered in more detail in the May issue of Digest.

Dui Hua Addresses Students at Princeton and Berkeley

On March 10, Dui Hua Publications & Programs Officer Jonathan J. Kinkel delivered a guest lecture in Professor Peter Lorenzen’s Chinese politics class at the University of California-Berkeley. Kinkel discussed the role of law in contemporary China, which was the focus of his PhD dissertation, and changes to China’s judiciary and legal profession since the beginning of the post-Mao reform period.

As part of the lecture, Kinkel introduced students to Dui Hua’s work and methods for intervening on behalf of political prisoners. Students asked several questions including those regarding Dui Hua’s work in the areas of juvenile justice and women in prison.

On March 22, Kamm addressed Princeton students in Professor Rory Truex’s freshman seminar on human rights in China. Due to his active travel schedule, Kamm delivered remarks via Skype from Dui Hua’s home office. Truex moderated a question-and-answer session with questions ranging from Dui Hua’s prisoner list methodology to the history of Dui Hua’s founding and human rights advocacy.


June Fourth, Religion in Inner Mongolia

Reviewing more than 100 government records, Dui Hua staff uncovered information on the 1989 pro-democracy protests in Shiyan, Hubei Province and on underground religious groups in Kezuohou Banner, Inner Mongolia. In Shiyan, a prefecture-level city in northwestern Hubei, a total of eight defendants were tried for their participation in the 1989 “political turmoil.” An individual surnamed Hu stood accused of giving speeches to incite the overthrow of the Chinese Communist Party. In a separate case, an individual surnamed Wang displayed public banners with the slogans: “Remember the one-year anniversary of June Fourth! Oppose retrogression, oppose autocracy, and fight for democracy!” and “Release all ’89 democracy movement political prisoners immediately.” Both men received prison sentences for counterrevolutionary propaganda and incitement.

In 2003, authorities in Kezuohou Banner (a banner is a geographic unit akin to a county) reported that a total of 1,500 people were affiliated with illegal religious groups. The largest group led by Qi Guiying (齐桂英) and Hao Guixiang (郝桂香) had more than 500 adherents. Police repeatedly targeted the Christian-influenced group and reported that Qi and Hao failed to show remorse.


Rao Wenwei (饶文蔚), a former county government official in Chongqing, received his second sentence reduction of 18 months in 2013 and is scheduled for release on March 8, 2017. Prosecutors accused Rao of writing a series of “anti-China” essays for “foreign websites run by hostile forces” and of criticizing the “strike black” campaign against corruption and organized crime orchestrated by then-Chongqing Party Secretary Bo Xilai. The court sentenced Rao to 12 years in prison for inciting subversion and taking bribes. Rao received his first 18-month sentence reduction in September 2011.


The Chinese government’s decision to release dissident lawyer Chen Taihe (陈泰和) and allow him to reunite with his family in the United States generated widespread media coverage. Stories in The New York Times and in The Wall Street Journal covered Chen’s arrival in the US, while The American Lawyer magazine and Radio Free Asia followed up with more detailed interviews with Chen. Last month, Newsweek and The Houston Chronicle also published stories on the one-year anniversary of the detention of Sandy Phan-Gillis, who continues to be the only known American citizen held by Chinese authorities on spying charges.


FeaturedDui Hua Hails Professor Chen Taihe’s Arrival in the United States (March 7)

Associate Professor Chen Taihe (陈泰和) of Guilin Electronic Technology University Law School (pictured left), a practicing attorney and leading voice for legal reform in China, was reunited with his family in San Francisco on March 1. Professor Chen was detained on July 12, 2015, on suspicion of inciting subversion, provoking a serious disturbance, and embezzlement. His detention was part of a nationwide crackdown on lawyers and activists that led to the interrogation or detention of more than 200 people.

Dui Hua and PRI Release Mandarin Course on Bangkok Rules for Women in Prison (March 8)

China’s Acquittal Rate Rose in 2015, But Remains Low (March 22)

Previous DigestMarch 2016


This section delves into the human rights activism of John Kamm between 1990 and 1999, the year he established Dui Hua.

Jiang Zemin during his state visit to the United States in October 1997, after which Kamm was able to resume cooperation with the Chinese government. Photo credit:

You’re on a Businessman’s List

In February 1995, American businessman John Kamm traveled to Beijing to review progress of his effort to systematically obtain information on people imprisoned for counterrevolutionary crimes. Prior to his arrival, he compiled a booklet with all of the information he had received from the Ministry of Justice (MOJ) in 1994 and sent it to the MOJ and State Council Information Office (SCIO).

When he met with senior officials of the SCIO and MOJ, Kamm asked them what they thought of his booklet. SCIO Director Zeng Jianhui replied, “You have accurately reported what you were told.”

Kamm then proposed that, for 1995, he submit quarterly lists of 25 prisoners for a total of 100 names. Director Zeng looked at the MOJ representative, who nodded in agreement. “It’s a deal then,” said Kamm. “Let’s shake on it.” He then handed over the first list of 25 names.

Two months later Kamm returned to Beijing, where the MOJ gave him responses on 18 of the first 25 names, and he submitted a second list.

Then, in May 1995, the United States Department of State issued a visa to then-President of Taiwan Lee Tenghui. Lee traveled to the United States where he gave an impassioned speech on Taiwan at his alma mater, Cornell University. The Chinese government was furious. As tensions mounted, Chinese rockets were fired in the direction of Taiwan, and President Clinton dispatched two carrier groups to patrol the waters off the island.

The Taiwan Straits crisis effectively ended Kamm’s “prisoner information project,” but he refused to accept what he saw as a unilateral termination of a contract. He continued to travel to Beijing and lobbied whoever would see him—not many Chinese officials would—to resume cooperation. He convinced dozens of American senators and members of Congress to write letters of support to the Chinese Embassy and to bring up the matter in face-to-face meetings with senior Chinese officials. Most importantly, he “kept his side of the deal,” faxing to the SCIO and MOJ the third and fourth quarter lists.

It wasn’t until after President Jiang Zemin made a state visit to the United States in October 1997 that cooperation between Kamm and the Chinese government resumed. By the end of 1998, Kamm had received responses to nearly all of the prisoners on his 1995 lists.

One of the names for which he received a response was Zhang Xianliang, a Shanghai-based dissident who had served a sentence for counterrevolution in the mid-1980s and who had resumed his pro-democracy activism after his release. Zhang had been detained in 1993 for organizing a commemoration of the 1989 June Fourth anti-government protests in Beijing and other cities. He was sentenced to three years of re-education through labor in Anhui Province.

According to the MOJ response, Zhang had been released early for good behavior in June 1996. Not long after his release, Zhang traveled to the United States to join his daughter.

In March 2002, Kamm was profiled in a cover story for The New York Times Magazine. A few days after the story appeared, Kamm received a call from Ms. Zhang Bing, Zhang Xianliang’s daughter, who lived in Berkeley. She asked to come and see him at his San Francisco office.

Zhang came to Kamm’s office and immediately began telling him a story she had heard from her father, who was at that time running a small human rights group in Chicago. Upon arrival at the camp, Zhang Xianliang, a fifty-year-old intellectual, had been assigned to hard labor. He was tormented by two guards, until one day they were replaced by a kind guard. Zhang was reassigned to work in the camp library, and his guard would stop by and join him for tea and cigarettes.

At one of these get-togethers, the guard told Zhang: “Don’t worry. You will be released and allowed to travel to the United States. You’re on a businessman’s list.” When Zhang read the story in the Times magazine, he realized that the businessman was John Kamm.