SAN FRANCISCO (September 26, 2006) – A Chinese court in Guangzhou has approved a nine-month sentence reduction for Hong Kong resident Xu Zerong (徐泽荣), according to informed sources in China and as confirmed to The Dui Hua Foundation by members of Xu’s family.
Xu, who was convicted in December 2001 of illegally providing state secrets abroad and illegal business activity, has already served more than six years of his original 13-year sentence. Following the sentence reduction, the 52-year-old Xu—who is also known as David Tsui—is due to be released from Guangzhou Prison on September 23, 2012.
Xu’s family has told Dui Hua that they have applied to provincial prison authorities for medical parole for Xu, who suffers from diabetes and high blood pressure.
A political scientist educated at Harvard and Oxford universities, Xu Zerong was a senior research fellow at the Guangdong Academy of Social Sciences in Guangzhou and head of an independent publishing company in Hong Kong at the time of his detention on June 24, 2000.
Chinese authorities charged Xu, who wrote his Ph.D. dissertation at Oxford on China’s role in the Korean War, with collecting and photocopying documents related to China’s military tactics during that conflict, as well as with providing copies of those documents to a South Korean scholar. Although Xu believed that the initial classification of these “internal” documents had expired after 40 years, Chinese military authorities certified at trial that the documents were in fact “top secret” materials that had never been declassified. Xu was also charged with operating an unlicensed academic publishing company in Shenzhen.
After Xu’s appeal of the Shenzhen Intermediate People’s Court’s original 13-year sentence was rejected by the Guangdong Higher People’s Court in December 2002, he began serving his sentence in Dongguan Prison, where most Hong Kong residents convicted of a crime by Guangdong courts are incarcerated. In 2004, Xu was transferred to Guangzhou Prison, enabling his relatives to visit more frequently. Xu has been exempted from physical labor and has been allowed to read, conduct research, and teach English to fellow inmates.
“Xu’s case illustrates the chilling effect of China’s vague laws on state secrecy on academic research,” says Joshua Rosenzweig, Manager of Research & Publications for The Dui Hua Foundation. “When the authorities can retroactively classify decades-old documents as ‘top secret,’ it forces scholars to shy away from pursuing any subject that might be remotely considered sensitive.”
Xu Zerong’s case has been a high priority for the Norwegian, EU, Swiss, and UK human rights dialogues with China. Scholars from St. Antony’s College at Oxford University and Harvard University have lobbied for his early release, as have many academic associations (Committee of Concerned Scientists, American Association for the Advancement of Science, the American Sociological Association) and NGOs (Dui Hua, Reporters Without Borders, PEN, Human Rights Watch, Information Centre for Human Rights and Democracy in China, Hong Kong Human Rights Monitor).
The Dui Hua Foundation
San Francisco, California
September 26, 2006