The Dui Hua Foundation has been advised by China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, citing information provided by the Ministry of Justice, that 72-year-old retired physics professor Tong Shidong will be released from Chishan Prison in Hunan Province on March 9, 2006. Tong, who helped to organize a branch of the China Democracy Party (CDP) at Hunan University in January 1999, is the oldest member of the CDP currently serving a prison sentence. He was convicted of subversion by the Changsha Intermediate People’s Court on December 22, 1999 and given a 10-year prison sentence, with subsequent deprivation of political rights for three years.

Tong’s release on Thursday comes 39 months before the end of his original sentence, which had been due to expire on June 9, 2009. Because of good behavior, and bearing in mind Tong’s advanced age, the prison authorities twice reduced Tong’s sentence, the latest reduction taking place in December 2004. Dui Hua only learned of the second reduction recently; it immediately sought and has now received confirmation from the Chinese government.

Tong was detained on June 10, 1999, the same day as Hunan labor organizer Liao Shihua, with whom the professor had reportedly been editing a party journal (Opposition Party) and otherwise collaborating in CDP activities. Liao, detained at the site of a “mass incident” in front of the offices of the Hunan provincial government, was tried together with Tong and sentenced to four years for subversion and three years for gathering a crowd to disrupt traffic. The court combined the two sentences into a single six-year prison term with subsequent deprivation of political rights for one year. Liao was released from Chishan Prison at the conclusion of his sentence on June 9, 2005, according to information provided by the Chinese government. Liao Shihua’s political rights—including the rights of speech, assembly, association, and demonstration—are currently suspended, as Tong Shidong’s will be commencing March 9.

Information about Tong’s impending release was conveyed in an email from the Chinese government to Dui Hua. This is the latest in a series of recent communications covering sentence reductions and early releases for prisoners convicted in cases of counterrevolution and endangering state security.

The Dui Hua Foundation
San Francisco, California
March 7, 2006