This post was originally published as part of Dui Hua’s This Month in History series in its January 2015 Digest.
In January 2005, Dui Hua received an unusual fax from China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA). The unsigned documents comprised four lists of information on sentence reductions and parole for 56 Chinese prisoners serving sentences for counterrevolution or ESS. Nearly all of the information was new, and most of it related to prisoners whose names were unknown outside China. The information came from provincial prison bureaus in 11 provinces, with the bulk of it out of the Tibetan Autonomous Region and Fujian.
At the time we received the fax, the United States and China were engaged in talks about sentence reduction and parole systems in the two countries. (These talks were the forerunner of the present-day Legal Experts Dialogue.) The United States, based on its own research, contended that China discriminated against prisoners serving sentences for counterrevolution and ESS in the country’s sentence reduction and parole system. China denied this accusation, and by providing information to Dui Hua on more than four dozen acts of clemency, hoped to buttress its claim.
The amount of case information the Chinese government provided in that single fax is more than it gave Dui Hua during the full year 2014, yet even a decline in information cannot change that fact that Dui Hua remains the only non-governmental organization in the world to exchange information on prisoners directly with the Chinese government, and the only body in the world other than the United Nations to receive written information on prisoners from the Chinese government. In fact as China increasingly guards its prisoner information from foreign governments, Dui Hua’s receipt of information on 40 cases in 2014 is no small feat.