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Democracy Activist Qin Yongmin Released from Prison after 12-Year Sentence

November 29, 2010

Longtime democracy and human rights activist Qin Yongmin (秦永敏) was released from the Hanyang Prison in Hubei Province today after serving a 12-year sentence for “subversion of state power” (颠覆国家政权罪). Qin was convicted in December 1998 following his activities to organize the China Democracy Party – an independent political party that the authorities suppressed – and attempts to register the new party’s Hubei branch. Qin is now subject to three years of deprivation of political rights.

Qin said that immediately before his release the prison officials forcibly took all of his personal documents: essays he wrote, written communications with his family, and his own copy of the 1998 court decision against him. Qin said, “I refused and fought with them to get the documents back. Then several people shoved me into a police car.”

Qin said that he was subjected to severe communications restrictions while in prison. Qin said, “For ten years I wasn’t permitted to meet my daughter.… The prison officials made it difficult for my father and brother to visit me and told me ugly lies such as ‘your father and brother don’t want you; they won’t visit you.’” According to relatives, Qin was not allowed to speak with other prisoners for most of his prison term, and not one of the more than 200 letters he wrote to his daughter reached her. Qin also suffers from high blood pressure.

Qin has a long history of political activism and spent more than two of the past three decades in custody. He was a key participant of the Wuhan Democracy Wall Movement in 1979 and was also the chief editor of a democracy magazine, Bell. From 1981 to 1989, Qin was imprisoned for “counterrevolutionary propaganda and incitement” (反革命宣传煽动罪). From 1993 to 1995, Qin served two years of Reeducation-Through-Labor for drafting the “Peace Charter,” which asked the Chinese government to reevaluate its stance on the June Fourth crackdown, release all political prisoners, and allow exiled students and academics to return to China. The charter also asked the Chinese government to adopt democratic elections with multiple political parties. In 1998, before his arrest, Qin co-founded the China Human Rights Observer, an organization that published a newsletter on human rights developments. In 1998, Qin had to stand trial without representation when his lawyer quit after being intimated by the authorities.

“Qin Yongmin’s imprisonment is another example of the Chinese authorities criminalizing the exercise of rights that are protected by the Chinese Constitution, including freedom of expression and association,” said Sharon Hom, Executive Director of Human Rights in China. “In addition, the prison authorities’ interference with Qin’s personal correspondence and visits from his family during his imprisonment, and confiscation of his personal property upon his release, undermine specific rights protected under Chinese law, including a prisoner’s right to human dignity, personal safety, and lawful property.”

HRIC calls upon the People’s Procuratorate and the Department of Judicial Administration under the State Council to ensure that Hanyang Prison officials return the documents taken from Qin.  


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