Kamm’s trip to Beijing
Dui Hua Executive Director John Kamm spent the week of October 24th in Beijing exchanging opinions with senior Chinese foreign affairs and judicial officials, and meeting high ranking diplomats of foreign embassies. Kamm was accompanied on this visit by Ms. Yin Yu, Dui Hua’s Program and Development Manager.
Highlights of the trip included Kamm’s meetings with Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs Li Baodong, China’s most senior diplomat in charge of international affairs, including human rights, and Deputy Director General Zhou Jiahai of the Research Department of the Supreme People’s Court. The meeting with Vice Minister Li marked the fourth time in three years that the two exchanged opinions on human rights dialogue. After the meeting, a photograph of the two was posted on the Ministry’s webpage and is featured above.
Surrounding Kamm’s meeting with Vice Minister Li Baodong, he had separate meetings with Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) officials including the Special Representative in charge of human rights dialogues Ms. Liu Hua and a ranking member of the Ministry’s North American and Oceanian Affairs Department.
Kamm’s three meetings with MFA covered a wide range of topics. Unsurprisingly, given that Kamm’s visit to Beijing took place less than two weeks before the US presidential election, the likely course of US-China relations after the new president takes office in January 2017 dominated discussions.
Kamm and his interlocutors also focused on developments in China with respect to civil and political rights. These included greater use of non-custodial measures for juvenile offenders and the reduction in the number of crimes carrying the death penalty. All parties agreed that the decision by the Supreme People’s Court to publish online judgments by lower courts was an important advance in the effort to enhance transparency of China’s judicial system. Yet at the same time, there was general agreement that more work needs to be done.
At the meeting with Deputy Director General Zhou of the Supreme People’s Court, an agreement was reached to hold Dui Hua’s fifth expert exchange with the Research Office’s Office of the Juvenile Courts. The exchange will cover topics in juvenile justice reform, and will involve both Chinese and international experts. The exchange is tentatively scheduled to take place in the latter half of 2017 and will be conducted in accordance with the Foreign NGO Management Law, which was passed by the National People’s Congress in April 2016 and which takes effect on January 1, 2017. The exchange is believed to be one of the first activities conducted in accordance with the new law. Though details of the new law have yet to be spelled out – including the guidelines and list of Professional Supervisory Units – the general directions and channel of communication for the exchange program on juvenile justice were agreed upon.
Kamm’s visit to Beijing took place shortly after the MFA agreed to hold human rights dialogues with the United Kingdom, Germany, and the European Union. Kamm was told that the decision to resume the dialogues came after the MFA received assurances that the countries concerned would not sign future statements on China’s human rights at the UN Human Rights Council. No progress has been made on resuming the human rights dialogue between China and the United States.
Kamm was informed that there has been no change in the MFA’s position regarding prisoner lists. It will resist accepting them, and will not reply to them in any event. An exception has been made for Kamm and Dui Hua. In light of the longstanding relationship between the Chinese government and the foundation, lists will continue to be accepted and replied to when possible.
Altogether, Kamm met with senior diplomats of 20 countries in Beijing. Lively exchanges were held with Ambassadors and Deputy Chiefs of Mission of Sweden, Canada, the United States, Switzerland, Denmark, Norway, and the European Union. Kamm also met with Beijing based legal scholars and representatives of foreign NGOs.
In October, Dui Hua’s interlocutors provided updates on two Falun Gong practitioners who were sentenced to lengthy terms in Chongqing for organizing/using a cult to undermine implementation of the law. He Mingli (何明礼) was released from Yudu Prison about six years earlier on October 25, 2011. According to unofficial media sources, He was sentenced to 13 years’ imprisonment by the Jiulongpo District People’s Court in September 2004 for allegedly fabricating a story in May 2003 that a Falun Gong female practitioner was raped by a policeman while in custody. The story claims the victim attempted a hunger strike, but was forced fed, a procedure that was reported to have damaged her trachea and esophagus.
Sentenced to 15 years’ imprisonment in 2002 for an additional charge of sabotaging radio and television infrastructure, Li Xiangdong (李向东) was part of the group that tapped into broadcast signals to broadcast Falun Gong materials on TV for over an hour on January 1, 2002. Also incarcerated in Yudu Prison, Li was released about seven years earlier on October 20, 2010.
Dui Hua uncovered an official document that reveals the identity of a previously-unknown individual sentenced for subversion for joining Dong Zhanyi’s New Era Communist Party of China. Zhang Guofang (张国芳) still has one more year to serve in Henan No.1 Prison before completing his eight years’ sentence. While Dong was a key leader of the underground party with its stated mission of fighting corruption, it is unclear what Zhang’s role was. Other imprisoned party members Dui Hua has uncovered include Sun Tianxi (孙天西), Shi Zongzhao (石宗兆), Xie Jucai (谢聚才), Liang Jizheng (梁纪政), Chen Guohua (陈国华) and Huang Huiming (黄会明).
Featured: China: New Rules on Electronic Data Collection Take Effect (October 11)
On October 1, a new set of rules took effect in China that raised alarms when first introduced last month. Casual observers worried that the “Provisions Concerning the Collection, Extraction, Review, and Judgment of Electronic Data in the Handling of Criminal Cases” (“Provisions”) (translation), issued jointly by the Supreme People’s Court, the Supreme People’s Procuratorate, and the Ministry of Public Security, would mean that from now on, every word you say in a Weibo post or WeChat circle could be used against you in court.
Previous Digest: October 2016
This month, Dui Hua received a surge of media coverage concerning the release of the last known Tiananmen prisoner, Miao Deshun, including coverage from The Washington Post and The New York Times. The foundation learned of Miao’s release earlier this year and published a press statement about the much welcomed news. Dui Hua has been tracking Miao’s case for over the past decade and has included his name in 17 prisoner’s lists submitted to the Chinese government.
A Prison Without Walls
In the 1992 presidential campaign, Democratic challenger Bill Clinton attacked incumbent President George H. W. Bush for “coddling” dictators from Baghdad to Beijing. He endorsed the use of trade sanctions to force China to improve its human rights record. After Clinton won the election in November 1992, China’s leaders grew increasingly concerned that Clinton would make good on his promise. They turned to American businessman turned rights advocate John Kamm for advice.
Shortly after the election, Kamm flew to Beijing for meetings with senior officials. On November 16, 1992, Kamm dined with Zeng Jianhui, Director of the State Council Information Office (Zeng later served as chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee of the National People’s Congress.) Kamm reminded Zeng of the positive reaction in the United States to the release of Tiananmen Square and Catholic prisoners, and suggested that China release prisoners from the Democracy Wall movement, namely Wei Jingsheng, Xu Wenli, and Wang Xizhe.* Kamm told Zeng that China had never released a prominent Democracy Wall prisoner, and opined that releasing one or more of them would have a positive impact.
Wang Xizhe was a member of the famous Li Yizhe group that had put up a wall poster in Guangzhou in 1974 that called for democracy and rule of law. Wang had served five years in prison for his bold move, and, upon release, resumed his activism. He became a leader in the Democracy Wall movement, was detained in April 1981 and subsequently sentenced to 14 years in prison for counterrevolutionary incitement and propaganda and establishing a counterrevolutionary group. He sent to Huaiji Prison in western Guangdong Province to serve his sentence.
Wang was released on February 3, 1993. Media coverage, especially by the Hong Kong press, was heavy.
In early March 1993, Kamm returned to Beijing for meetings with senior officials including Zeng Jianhui and representatives of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Ministry of Public Security, Ministry of Justice, and Supreme People’s Court. He told officials with whom he met that he wanted go to Guangzhou and meet with Wang Xizhe. No objections were raised.
On March 26, Kamm took the through train from Hong Kong to Guangzhou. That evening he was hosted to a banquet by Guangdong vice governor Zhang Gaoli. In his notes, Kamm recorded that 48 year old Zhang was a “high flyer.” He is currently a member of the Standing Committee of the Politburo of the Communist Party of China. The focus of the discussion was Clinton’s looming decision on whether or not to extend China’s Most Favored Nation trading status.
Having gotten the go ahead from both Beijing and Guangdong, Kamm went to the coffee shop of the Jiang Nan Hotel in Guangzhou’s Henan District. He found Wang Xizhe and Li Jengtian, another leader of the Li Yizhe group, waiting for him.
Li, by then a successful businessman who ran his own art gallery, was dressed in an elegant suit. Kamm found Wang’s appearance disconcerting. Kamm wrote in his notebook: “His time in prison must have been very difficult. He is trying to tint his hair back to brown from snow white. Most of the teeth on the upper right side of his mouth are gone.” Wang, Kamm wrote, is a proud and dignified man, determined to have his verdict reversed. He gave Kamm a copy of his 40th petition to the Supreme People’s Court; none of his petitions had been answered.
The conversation covered many topics. How did Kamm become interested in Wang’s case? What did Kamm think of Wang getting into business to promote capitalism and democracy? Wang told Kamm that his future was in China, and that he didn’t want to go abroad.
As the conversation grew animated, the tables around the small party in the coffee shop filled up with muscular young men in black leather jackets. These were officers of the state security bureau that Kamm had been told by officials in Beijing and Guangzhou to expect.
Soon it was midnight. The small group was surrounded by a dozen agents. Gesturing towards them, Wang said “Although I am not in a prison with walls, I am not free. I am in a prison without walls.”
Suddenly, Wang stood up and bowed to Kamm, declaring that this is how Chinese people show respect. Kamm then stood up and asked him to sit down, saying he didn’t deserve such respect. Wang would have none if it. He bowed a second time. ” My first bow was to say thank you for what you did for me, this bow is to say thank you on behalf of people who would like to thank you, but cannot.”
After taking photos and settling the bill, the group went their separate ways. Kamm promised to return to Guangzhou in June to attend a children’s art exhibition at Li Jengtian’s gallery, and to see Wang.
*The Democracy Wall movement, sometimes referred to as Beijing Spring, lasted from November 1978 to December 1979. Thousands of people aired their grievances on a wall near a bus stop in Beijing’s Xidan District. Elsewhere around China, demonstrations, petitions, and unofficial journals flourished. Wang Xizhe assisted in the publication of the April Fifth Forum and edited his own journal, Study Bulletin.