Hu Mingjun (胡明军), a democracy activist from Sichuan, and Yuan Xianchen (袁显臣), a rights defender from Heilongjiang, are scheduled for release from prison on May 28, 2012. Hu will have served 11 years on charges of “subversion of state power” for writing articles critical of the government and for planning to form a branch of the China Democracy Party. Yuan is finishing a four-year term on charges of “inciting subversion of state power” that stemmed from his providing legal assistance to laid-off workers and his involvement in the “We Want Human Rights, Not the Olympics” signature campaign in 2008.
Hu Mingjun was a key organizer of the Sichuan Preparatory Committee of the China Democracy Party and wrote and posted online many essays critical of the government. He was criminally detained in May 2001 and formally arrested two months later. During his trial in May 2002, the Dazhou Municipal Intermediate People’s Court, Sichuan Province, escalated the charge of “inciting subversion of state power”—originally brought by the Dazhou Municipal People’s Procuratorate—to “subversion of state power,” citing evidence supporting the heavier charge. The court said that Hu was a key element in the prodemocracy activities in Sichuan and “should be severely punished.” After his release, Hu is subjected to four years of deprivation of political rights.
The evidence cited by the court included: gathering a large number of people to meet, exchanging ideas, disseminating views that opposed the country’s political system, and attempting to establish a Sichuan branch of the China Democracy Party. The court also found that Hu exploited the shutdown of the Dazhou Qinghua Iron and Steel Factory, distorted and exaggerated the facts of the case to spread inflammatory propaganda, and seriously damaged the image of the state and government.
Hu Mingjun is expected to be released from the Sichuan Provincial No. 1 Prison (also known as Chuanzhong Prison). Hu Chao (胡超), Hu Mingjun’s brother, told Human Rights in China (HRIC) that the family will be allowed to meet Hu at the prison to take him home.
Hu Mingjun’s mother told HRIC that after Hu’s detention, the family heard nothing from the authorities until months after his trial. She said, “We did not know that he had been sentenced to 11 years until August or September 2002, when the police brought the verdict to his father in a hospital room to get his signature. His father said, ‘I won’t be able to see my son again.’ He passed away a few months later.” She said that Hu Mingjun was suffering from frequent chest pains and nausea, and would faint from the smell of cigarette smoke. According to her, when Hu applied for permission to get a checkup in a hospital outside the prison, it took two or three years before he got the approval. The exam showed that his left ventricle was enlarged and he has needed medications ever since.
Huang Qi (黄琦), a well-known Sichuan rights activist who runs Tianwang Human Rights Center and was incarcerated in the same prison as Hu for two years, confirmed that Hu did not receive adequate medical treatment, and that Hu was held in solitary confinement repeatedly for refusing to admit guilt. He said that Hu suffers from hypertension and heart disease and has had a stroke, and that, since 2006, Hu has been hospitalized four times in the prison hospital, where the doctors were only able to provide basic medications and were not able to treat anything more than a cold.
Hu’s mother said, “Hu Mingjun is a kind-hearted man by nature. He was doing well in business in Chengdu and used what he earned to help others. His wife taught music, and their daughter was cute; his health and his work were both good. I never would have imagined that he would be sentenced to 11 years. He was 38 when he went in, and is now nearly 50. His wife and children are gone. He will nothing to his name.”
Yuan Xianchen was a legal worker and rights activist from Jixi, Heilongjiang Province. Yuan gathered signatures for the “We Want Human Rights, Not the Olympics” open letter signature campaign organized by Yang Chunlin (杨春林), a representative of farmers who had lost their own in Jiamusi, Heilongjiang Province, prior to the 2008 Beijing Olympics. In early 2008, Yuan helped several thousand workers who had been laid off from Didao Coal Mine, a part of the Heilongjiang Jixi Coal Mine Group, prepare a lawsuit to seek fair compensations.
In May 2008, Yuan was illegally held by the Jixi Municipal Public Security for six days and then criminally detained. In March 2009, he was convicted of “inciting subversion of state power” by the Jixi Municipal Intermediate People’s Court and sentenced to four years in prison and five years of post-release deprivation of political rights. Among the evidence cited in the verdict was that Yuan wrote and distributed articles calling for democracy, accepted interviews from foreign media, and received contributions from aboard. Yuan appealed the verdict, but the Heilongjiang Provincial Higher People’s Court upheld the conviction in August 2010, after having delayed the case for half a year.
Li Fangping (李方平) and Li Xiongbing (黎雄兵), the lawyers representing Yuan in his trial of first instance, believe that there were serious procedural violations in Yuan’s case. They state that a confession was extract from Hu through torture by the investigating agencies, that Yuan was held in custody for six days without going through any criminal detention procedures, that Yuan’s lawyers were prohibited from meeting with him, that he was detained longer than the legal limit, and that he was denied the right to make his defense statement and final statement in court.
Zhang Shuzhi (张淑芝), Yuan’s wife, told HRIC that Yuan Xianchen was convicted because of the Olympics. “They accused him of posting 20-something articles online, but that didn’t happen at all,” she said. “Then they said that the articles were drafts. But if the articles were drafts, then they hadn’t been posted, so how could he have incited anyone?”
Zhang noted that the leading authorities involved in Yuan’s prosecution—the Party Secretary, head of the Public Security Bureau, President of the Intermediate People's Court in Jixi, and the Didao District Party Secretary—have all been detained or subjected to shuanggui, a disciplinary measure that allows the Party to detain its members for interrogation, for bribery. The head of the Didao District Public Security Bureau, she said, was sentenced to 12 years in prison.
Zhang Shuzhi herself was detained by the Jixi police for 36 days in May 2008. The charges against her changed while she was held, from “disturbing social order” to “petitioning” to “inciting subversion of state power,” and, finally, to “covering up a crime.” In 2011, Zhang applied for state administrative compensation for the detention. The Heilongjiang Provincial Higher People’s Court ruled that the Jixi Municipal Public Security Bureau should compensate Zhang 5,000 yuan (US$789), but the police refused to pay.
Yuan Xianchen is expected to be released from Heilongjiang’s Dongfeng Prison. Yuan’s family is facing a huge economic burden. Yuan has a chronic condition from being tortured on multiple occasions while he was detained. His wife is being treated for breast cancer for which she has already borrowed over 40,000 yuan (about US$6,300). His parents are ill: his father with bladder cancer and his mother with a cerebral embolism. His son is currently in university.
Yuan Xianchen is a self-taught legal advocate and was licensed as a legal worker by the Ministry of Justice in 1995. Yuan and Zhang Shuzhi opened the Dongxing Law Firm to provide legal services to local people. Over the years, Dongxing represented many disadvantaged persons and groups in the area. The local judiciary refused to register Dongxing in 2000, effectively closing the firm. After the firm’s closure, Yuan turned to rights defense and petitioning to continue his work defending the disadvantaged.
For more information on Hu Mingjun, see:
- “Take Action in Year of the Rabbit!,” February 1, 2011
- “News Update,” China Rights Forum, 2001, summer
For more information on Yuan Xianchen, see:
- Li Subin, Teng Biao, et al, “The State’s Respect for and Protection of Human Rights Begins with the Strict Prohibition of Torture,” January 17, 2011
- “Heilongjiang Court Upholds Inciting Subversion of State Power Conviction of Legal Activist,” September 2, 2010
- Jixi Municipal Intermediate People’s Court, Criminal Verdict, no. 5 (2009) (Chinese only)
- Yuan Xianchen’s Plea on the Charges of Inciting Subversion of State Power, January 12, 2009 (Chinese only)