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Political & Religious Prisoners

English | 中文

Dui Hua’s prisoner-advocacy work began as an effort to uncover the names and secure the early release of activists imprisoned during the crackdown on the pro-democracy demonstrations that culminated on June 4, 1989, with the Chinese army’s attack on protesters in Tiananmen Square. Over the years, Dui Hua’s scope has broadened to encompass all individuals detained for the non-violent expression of their beliefs, including:


  • Political dissidents: people imprisoned for expressing their opposition to one-party rule by exercising universally recognized rights to free speech and association and often charged with “endangering state security” crimes such as “subversion” and “incitement”

  • Religious practitioners: people persecuted for holding religious beliefs that are not officially sanctioned, including members of house churches and Falun Gong

  • Ethnic minorities: people labeled “splittists” and jailed for participating in cultural and pro-independence movements

  • Petitioners: people jailed for seeking redress to grievances related to land seizure, demolition, corruption, miscarriages of justice, and other issues

Dui Hua classifies political and religious prisoners as at-risk detainees because authorities often target them for more severe treatment. This is partially because authorities often interpret these prisoners’ claims to innocence as “unwillingness to reform.” Based on their alleged crimes, these prisoners are also subject to “strict handling” when they apply for sentence reduction and parole.

Find out more about political prisoners in Digest and Human Rights Journal.

Prisoner Lists

One of Dui Hua’s main activities is the preparation of lists of political and religious detainees incarcerated in China for submission to the Chinese government. These prisoner lists have played a vital role in human rights diplomacy between China and other countries and organizations.

Drawing on its Political Prisoner Database and years of experience in the selection and presentation of cases, Dui Hua produces many lists each year to hand over to the Chinese government—delivered both directly and through third parties. In addition to delivering its own lists to Chinese officials, Dui Hua has created prisoner lists for use by the United Nations, heads of state, national legislators, non-governmental organizations, and nearly all of the countries holding human rights dialogues with China.

Tailored to the particular circumstances in which they are used, the lists have ranged in length from a handful of cases to well over 100 names. The foundation has produced lists highlighting persons imprisoned in a particular province or prison, individuals convicted of a particular category of crime, and obscure cases essentially unknown both inside and outside of China. As vehicles for expressing concern about individual cases, the lists have contributed directly to better treatment and early release for hundreds of prisoners.