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Dui Hua Digest, April 2015

EVENTS

UN Human Rights Council. Credit: UN Geneva

After a week in Cambridge, Massachusetts, Dui Hua Executive Director John Kamm headed to Europe for 17 days of meetings and speeches in Geneva, Berne, Copenhagen, Stockholm, and Oslo.

The opening session of this year’s UN Human Rights Council coincided with Kamm’s week in Geneva. He met with Peter Maurer, President of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC); UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein; Ambassador Keith Harper of the Permanent Mission of the United States in Geneva; and Minister Counselor Ren Yisheng of China’s Permanent Mission in Geneva.

During Kamm’s trip to Beijing in early February, a senior official with responsibilities for China’s human rights diplomacy told him that China would be increasing its cooperation with the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights and other international humanitarian organizations based in Geneva. Kamm heard much to suggest that active engagement is well underway. For the first time, China is providing financial support to the ICRC’s mission in Kabul, and, according to an informed source, ICRC was able to resume its work in Sudan after a discreet intervention by Beijing. Within the work of the Human Rights Council, China has assumed the chairmanship of the Working Group on Situations, a body that examines the most urgent human rights issues and cases. Discussions are underway between High Commissioner Zeid’s office and the Chinese Mission regarding the timing of a possible visit to China by the high commissioner. No high commissioner has visited China since Louise Arbour toured the country in September 2005.

After Geneva, Kamm held meetings in the Swiss capital of Berne with officials handling human rights and Asia Pacific matters for the Federal Department of Foreign Affairs.

From Switzerland, Kamm flew to Copenhagen for meetings with the Danish Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Relations between Denmark and China are the best they’ve been in years. Kamm made a presentation on his 25 years of human rights activism at the University of Copenhagen. The turnout included Danish officials, journalists, and scholars, as well as Chinese teachers and students.

Kamm’s next stop was Stockholm where he met with the Swedish Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency. Kamm had a freewheeling conversation with Gustaf Lind, the newly appointed head of the Department for International Law, Human Rights and Treaty Law at the Swedish Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and colleagues.

Like Switzerland, Denmark, and Sweden, Norway has supported Dui Hua financially for more than 10 years. Kamm’s schedule in Oslo was befitting of such long-term cooperation. He met with newly appointed Executive Director Olav Njølstad of the Norwegian Nobel Institute, Deputy Director General Tine Mørch Smith of the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs Department of the United Nations and Humanitarian Affairs, Secretary Dag Stangnes of the Storting Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and Defence, Secretary General Bjørn Engesland of the Norwegian Helsinki Committee, and Minister of EEA and EU Affairs Vidar Helgesen of the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Kamm’s last event of his European trip was a talk at the Norwegian Centre for Human Rights at the University of Oslo. Professor Emeritus Asbjørn Eide, one of Norway’s most distinguished scholars and activists in the field of human rights, introduced Kamm to a room full of students and scholars to discuss “Human Rights in China: 25 years of Activism.”

PRISONER CASES

Xue Feng

Dui Hua welcomes the release of American geologist Dr. Xue Feng (薛锋) (pictured right, AP) who returned home to Houston on April 3 after his release from Beijing No.2 Prison. Xue was sentenced to eight years in prison for “illegally procuring state secrets for foreign entities” in July 2010 and received a 10-month sentence reduction in November 2012. Dui Hua advocated for better treatment and early release for Xue, who purchased a commercially available oil industry database, which was subsequently classified as a state secret. At the time of his release, Xue was the only American citizen serving a sentence for endangering state security in a Chinese prison.

New Era Communist Party of China

In March, Dui Hua sent inquiries to Chinese interlocutors about four members of the New Era Communist Party of China: Shi Zongzhao (石宗兆), Xie Jucai (谢聚才), Liang Jizheng (梁纪政), and Dong Zhanyi (董占义). All four are known to have been charged with subversion. Shi Zongzhao, Xie Jucai, and Liang Jizheng were formally arrested in Nanyang, Henan Province, on October 29, 2009.

According to official sources, New Era is an underground political party that aimed to overthrow the Communist Party of China. New Era members claim that they were working to fight corruption. Dui Hua discovered this group in early 2012 in a government source about Sun Tianxi (孙天西), a party member who completed his three-year sentence for subversion in September 2014. The source stated that New Era set up a supermarket management company to fund its activities in several provinces and municipalities, including Beijing and Henan. In 2008, Sun became a security officer for New Era in charge of recruitment. He was later appointed party secretary of Dengzhou City, Henan. As with other core leaders, Sun was tasked with collecting information about unemployed workers and impoverished rural families and helping them to organize petitions.

Library research conducted by Dui Hua last month uncovered another individual involving with New Era. Huang Huiming (黄会明) was tried for subversion in Jiangxi Province, where he allegedly recruited more than 200 party members, organized petitions, and distributed reactionary materials. Dui Hua has yet to discover the year or outcome of his trial.

Dui Hua believes that Dong Zhanyi and Chen Guohua (陈国华) are the founders of New Era. According to an official source, Dong was sentenced to life in prison in Beijing in October 2011 but had his sentence commuted to 19 years and six months in February 2015. Chen’s fate remains unclear as of this writing.

DUI HUA IN THE NEWS

Dui Hua research informed about two dozen news articles and reports from around the globe in March. An article in The New York Times presents our analysis of an uptick in the number of criminal trials in Xinjiang and its relationship to human rights abuses. Media reports examining the use of the death penalty worldwide continued to cite Dui Hua as a reliable source on the annual number of executions in China. The Economist used Dui Hua estimates in an article documenting China’s effort to curb the use of executed prisoners as the source of organs for transplant, and ABC News referenced Dui Hua in a report on the use of the death penalty around the globe in 2014.

PUBLICATIONS ROUND-UP

Featured Article: Xinjiang State Security Trials Flat, Criminal Trials Soar in 2014 (March 10)

Xinjiang’s number of endangering state security trials did not show annual growth in 2014, but a 40 percent jump in all criminal trials indicated that the suppression of fundamental human rights intensified in the region during Xi Jinping’s “anti-terror” campaign. Three categories of crimes accounted for the bulk of the annual increase in criminal trials, namely, “obstructing social administrative order,” “infringing upon citizens’ personal and democratic rights,” and “endangering public safety.”

Article 293: Deeming Free Speech Disorder in Internet Space (March 5)
Last month’s Digest: March 2014

THIS MONTH IN HISTORY

On April 16, 1999, The Dui Hua Foundation was established as a California nonprofit public benefit corporation. Shortly thereafter, the Internal Revenue Service approved Dui Hua’s tax-exempt status, registering it as a 501(c)(3) under the tax code. These twin developments enabled Dui Hua to start operations by opening its first office, hiring staff, and applying for grants from governments and private foundations.

Dui Hua was established for the dual purposes of uncovering the names of political prisoners in open-source publications issued by the Chinese government and submitting lists to the Chinese government inquiring about these individuals. Prospective grantors initially approached Dui Hua’s methods with skepticism, doubting that open-source research would turn up any new names. As one scholar who participated in a peer review of a grant application said: “The Chinese government does not put information on sensitive political cases in publicly accessible materials.”

Executive Director John Kamm collects open-source Chinese materials on a trip to Beijing. Credit: The New York Times Sunday Magazine

Dui Hua quickly proved disbelievers wrong. By the end of 1999, Dui Hua had found hundreds of names of previously unknown prisoners and began submitting the names to China’s Ministry of Justice and other ministries. In 2000, the foundation launched its Political Prisoner Database with 1,600 names, 80 percent of which were discovered through Dui Hua research into records and yearbooks issued by public security bureaus, courts, procuratorates, and prisons. By the end of 2014, the database held records on more than 30,000 prisoners, making it the world’s largest and most comprehensive resource of its kind.

One of the earliest cases uncovered by Dui Hua was that of Shanghai labor leader Jiang Cunde (蒋存德). Jiang tried to establish an independent trade union similar to the Polish union Solidarity. He was sentenced to life in prison for “counterrevolutionary sabotage” in 1987. After six years of medical parole, Jiang was sent back to prison in 1999. That year Dui Hua found his name in the 1997 Shanghai Public Security Yearbook and began submitting requests for information about him. Jiang’s life sentence was commuted to 20 years in prison in 2004. He remains in prison in Shanghai, where he is confined in a ward for mentally ill prisoners. According to information received by Dui Hua from a government source in February 2015, Jiang suffers from schizophrenia.