Party Paper Reports Clemency for Tiananmen Prisoner
After Dui Hua announced in early May that Chinese authorities granted the country’s last known June 4 prisoner an 11-month sentence reduction, something strange happened—Global Times reported the news. Controlled by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), the mainland paper predictably denounced those involved in the 1989 democracy protests, but in so doing, it called attention to an event that the CCP would prefer the whole world to forget.
The Global Times (Huanqiu shibao) borders on sympathetic in its reporting, calling the events in Tiananman Square on June 4, 1989, “an incident that startled the world.” Referring to the ongoing incarceration of Miao Deshun (苗德顺), the paper implies undue severity in sentencing, reporting that, in response to the 27 years Miao has spent in prison, people can only “sigh” (xixu). Over nearly three decades, Miao has received a total of two sentence reductions. He is scheduled for release from Beijing’s Yanqing Prison on October 15, 2016.
The Global Times report cites Dui Hua as “an American human rights organization” in what is perhaps the first time a Chinese government-controlled newspaper has mentioned the foundation. Dui Hua has raised Miao’s case with Chinese officials for more than 10 years.
At least partially in response to the article, China’s Office of the Central Leading Group for Cyberspace Affairs ordered Global Times and its online affiliates to undergo one month of “rectification” for “hyping” sensitive issues, according to Radio France International. Despite international awareness of the protests that swept Beijing and hundreds of other cities in 1989, many young people in China are unaware of their occurrence or historical significance.
Although many mainland news organizations likely erased the Global Times article following the leading group’s response, prominent reprints from Xinhua and China Daily remained accessible as of this writing.
Outside mainland China, international media widely reported Miao’s sentence reduction. The act of clemency was reported in more than 100 news items across 40 countries throughout the month of May, including in interviews with Dui Hua Executive Director John Kamm by the Voice of America‘s Chinese language edition and Korean digital radio program This Morning.
Clemency in Guangdong
Dui Hua received updates from government interlocutors on two prisoners serving lengthy sentences in Guangdong. Former senior Xinhua News Agency official Wei Pingyuan (魏平原) received an 11-month sentence reduction, which follows a 15-month reduction in April 2014. Wei was one of three Xinhua officials sentenced to life imprisonment in 2004 on allegations that they provided the United Kingdom with Chinese state secrets about the Hong Kong handover during the 1990s. Dui Hua has named Wei on more than 14 prisoner lists. He is scheduled for release from Meizhou Prison on August 20, 2020.
Guangzhou publishing house owner Liang Jiantian (梁鉴添) received a seven-month sentence reduction but still has more than six years to serve in Guangdong’s Panyu Prison. Liang and Liu Jingsong (刘镜崧), who co-owned the publishing house, were convicted of illegal business activity and producing obscene materials for printing about five million Falun Gong publications. Liu was released on September 17, 2010. Dui Hua has included Liang on ten prisoner lists since 2003.
Nuclear Plants as State Secrets
Mainland China currently has 32 nuclear power reactors in operation, 22 under construction, and several more ready to break ground. The country closely guards information about nuclear-plant construction and has classified some of it as state secrets. People convicted of illegally procuring or trafficking this information for foreign entities may be sentenced to death.
Dui Hua recently learned about two endangering state security cases involving Chinese nuclear-plant construction. On September 3, 2012, Fu Qi (傅琪) was sentenced to five years in prison in Guangzhou. According to a government document, Fu “inflicted harm on the interest and safety of the nation’s nuclear development.” Available information indicates that Fu was a regional director working in the Guangzhou office of Alstom, a French multinational company active in the fields of transportation, power generation, and electricity transmission before General Electric acquired its power business in 2014. After receiving a seven-month sentence reduction, Fu was released from Dongguan Prison on July 19, 2015.
In a separate case, a 61-year-old Hong Kong resident surnamed Wang was sentenced to 11 years in prison. Wang allegedly received more than 4 million euro from foreign entities in return for classified information on nuclear-plant construction. Wang’s case was made public in March at an education fair about state security in Guangdong Province.
Featured: Waiting for Relief: Obstacles to Righting Wrongful Convictions in China (May 31)
Increased attention to wrongful convictions in recent years has caused Chinese judicial authorities to retry more criminal cases and exonerate greater numbers of long-serving prisoners. What these trends mask, however, are the formidable obstacles to reopening a criminal case in China.
Previous Digest: May 2016
This section delves into the human rights activism of John Kamm between 1990 and 1999, the year he established Dui Hua.
Kamm Visits a Chinese Prison (Part 2 of 2)
Continued from Dui Hua’s May Digest–read Part 1 of 2 here.
Kamm and his hosts left Meizhou Airport and headed directly to the prison in the center of Meixian Municipality. Founded in 1951, Meizhou Prison was built on the site of a former Guomindang detention facility.
They entered the prison complex from a bustling street through white gates with signboards that read “Meixian New Life Automotive Parts Factory.” Prisoners at Meizhou Prison manufactured wheel assemblies in three workshops. The officials insisted that none of the products, valued at RMB 5 million, were for export.
In the outer courtyard Kamm was shown the family meeting rooms where prisoners were allowed once or twice a month, the mail room, a shop selling products for visiting relatives to give to prisoners, staff quarters, and the prison administration offices. On the western side of the courtyard were a car repair workshop and a plastic bottle workshop with two injection molding machines. Family members of prison staff ran the workshops.
On the northern end of the outer courtyard was Meizhou Prison. Kamm passed through a large sliding gate and a separate entrance guarded by an armed sentry. The walls were 18-20 feet high and topped by electrified wires.
At the end of a 200-meter walkway flanked by vegetable fields, a pigsty, and lumberyards filled with laboring prisoners, Kamm entered the cellblocks. There were 11 cellblocks, each housing 120-130 prisoners, who stood at attention during his visits. In each block, there were cells of 28-32 bed spaces. The cells were spartan, but it appeared that electric fans had recently been installed. Each block had a television that prisoners were allowed to watch three times a week and a common latrine and shower area.
Kamm visited the prison kitchen, where he heard about the rations given to each prisoner. He then toured the clinic; a music room—where the prisoners played Jingle Bells on Chinese instruments for the duration of the visit; a library; and the prison school where classes were taught in politics, art, and mathematics. Pleasantries were exchanged with prisoners, who seemed amused by the first visiting foreigner to have set foot in the facility.
In the courtyard between two cellblocks, Kamm watched a 10-minute exercise session. He asked to see the solitary confinement area, but his request was denied. At the time of his visit, one prisoner was in solitary for trying to escape.
The warden said that torture was strictly prohibited, and guards who beat inmates were disciplined—in one instance, a guard was sentenced to prison.
Every day the wardens of each cellblock graded prisoners on a 10-point scale. Those who received a year’s worth of 10-point scores were virtually guaranteed a sentence reduction. In line with national averages, 30 percent of prisoners received sentence reductions every year. Parole, approved by courts, also took place, and prisoners were allowed to petition courts for their cases to be reheard.
In the workshops, Kamm observed rudimentary safety measures for tractor wheel assemblies. The environment resembled that of the scores of state-owned factories that he had visited in his business career: lots of idling, and low levels of efficiency.
After the visit to the workshops, Director Chen Weixiong of the Guangdong Prison Administration Department gave Kamm information on five of the 13 prisoners he had asked about.
Three individuals had spent time at Meizhou Prison: Mai Furen and Sun Ludian, pastors of the Shouters, an evangelical sect targeted in a nationwide campaign in late 1983, and Liu Shanqing (刘山青), a Hong Kong resident detained in December 1981 and sentenced to 10 years in prison for counterrevolutionary offenses. Mai, who was serving a 13-year sentence, was released to his family a few months before Kamm’s visit due to his advanced age. Sun, who was serving a nine-year sentence, was released on medical parole in December 1990. Liu had been transferred to Huaiji Prison in 1989 or 1990. Kamm asked that Liu be released and allowed to return to Hong Kong without serving his deprivation of political rights in China. He returned to Hong Kong on Christmas Day, 1991.
Director Chen also gave Kamm information on two people who had not been incarcerated in Meizhou Prison. Chen Zhixiang (陈志祥) and Chen Pokong (陈破空) were sentenced for counterrevolutionary offenses committed during the spring 1989 protests in Guangzhou. Chen Zhixiang, a teacher sentenced to 10 years in prison, was in a detention center awaiting prison placement. He eventually went to Shaoguan Prison from which he was released more than three years early in 1995. Protest organizer Chen Pokong received a three-year sentence that he served in a public security detention center. He served nearly his entire sentence and was subsequently sentenced to re-education through labor for illegal border crossing.
Read Part 1 of 2 here.