SAN FRANCISCO (August 13, 2009) – Wang Jun (王军), who was an 18-year old railway worker when originally sentenced to death for his involvement in the April 22, 1989 disturbances that rocked Xi’an, the capital of Shaanxi Province, was released from Fuping Prison on May 11, 2009. His release followed a previously undisclosed sentence reduction granted in September 2008.
The information was provided to The Dui Hua Foundation by an informed source close to the Shaanxi Prison Administration Bureau. The source was unable to find information on two other prisoners—Liu Gang (刘刚) and Sun Guanghu (孙广虎)—who were also given life sentences for their involvement in the protests. Dui Hua believes that Liu and Sun are no longer in prison. If this is the case, all protesters known to have been imprisoned for participating in the April 22, 1989 disturbances in Xi’an are now believed to have been released.
Separately, an informed source has advised that Peng Jiamin (彭家民), the last-known prisoner serving a sentence in Shanghai for involvement in the June 1989 disturbances there, was released from Baoshan Prison on May 21, 2009. (Yu Rong [余蓉], a dissident arrested in late 1989 for throwing pamphlets and other objects from rooftops in Shanghai, is believed to be incarcerated in a psychiatric detention facility.)
The April 22 Incident in Xi’an
On the afternoon of April 22, 1989—the day of former party secretary Hu Yaobang’s funeral in Beijing—peaceful protests led by students in Xi’an degenerated into violent clashes between workers and police in the main square and adjacent streets of the provincial capital. The Xi’an disturbances were condemned in an April 26, 1989 editorial in The People’s Daily that blamed the student movement for “creating turmoil.” The editorial inflamed passions among students in Beijing and elsewhere, and is widely seen as a contributing factor to the turmoil that engulfed China’s capital and other cities in June 1989.
From Chengcheng County in Shaanxi, Wang Jun was a young railway worker when he threw rocks and set fire to vehicles before breaking into the offices of the provincial court and procuratorate, where he and other “ruffians” stole an electric calculator, pens and other items. He was apprehended at the scene and quickly brought to trial. On May 5, 1989, Wang was sentenced to death. His family appealed, and after the High People’s Court was unable to reach a decision, the case was sent to the Supreme People’s Court in Beijing. The Supreme People’s Court recommended a retrial, and Wang was subsequently sentenced to death with two-year reprieve on October 13, 1989, and he entered Fuping Prison in Xi’an to serve his sentence. According to information provided by China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, his sentence was commuted to life in prison in December 1991 and further reduced to 20 years’ imprisonment in December 1992.
Dui Hua’s research uncovered an account of Wang’s case in late 1999 and began including his name on prisoner lists submitted to the Chinese government. (Prior to this discovery, it had been widely assumed that Wang had been executed.) He was granted sentence reductions in August 2001 and December 2004. The last sentence reduction, in September 2008, was preceded by another push by Dui Hua for clemency.
“The releases of Wang Jun and Peng Jiamin bring closer the day when no one is in prison for offenses committed during the 1989 pro-democracy disturbances,” said John Kamm, Dui Hua’s executive director. “Most, if not all, of these remaining prisoners are incarcerated in Beijing. Dui Hua urges the Chinese authorities to release long-serving prisoners as part of a special pardon to mark the 60th anniversary of the founding of the People’s Republic.”
The Dui Hua Foundation
San Francisco, California
August 13, 2009