Human Rights in China (HRIC) has received an open letter signed by several of the student protesters that the Chinese government put on its “Most Wanted” list after the crackdown on the Democracy Movement in June 1989. The open letter calls for Chinese authorities to grant a speedy, fair and open retrial for Zhang Ming, another student leader formerly on the Most Wanted list.
Zhang Ming, 39, previously served three years in prison for his participation in the Democracy Movement. Last September he was again sentenced to seven years in prison on charges of “abuse of executive benefits” in connection with his business in Shanghai. Sources close to Zhang say his most recent arrest and imprisonment stem from local official resentment of his business success and his political past. Zhang Ming is in ill health as a result of an extended hunger strike protesting his conviction.
The signatories to the open letter include Wang Dan, Li Lu, Zhou Fengsuo, Feng Congde, Wu’er Kaixi, Wang Chaohua, Liu Gang, Zhang Boli and Wang Youcai. A translation of the full text of the open letter follows.
“We wholeheartedly support this letter from the student leaders,” said HRIC president Liu Qing. “It is fitting that people who have suffered political persecution because of their participation in a just political cause should stand together and offer each other mutual support. But with the fifteenth anniversary of June 4th fast approaching, perhaps this is a time when we should all think about what each of us can do to help ensure that another tragedy like June 4th will never happen again, and that veterans of the Democracy Movement should suffer no further political persecution.”
We are among the 21 students declared “most wanted” by the Chinese Government after the crackdown on the 1989 Democracy Movement. Zhang Ming is also one of these 21 students. On the eve of the fifteenth anniversary of the June 4th massacre, we are shocked to learn that Zhang Ming was once again sentenced to a prison term of seven years in Shanghai on the charge of “abuse of executive benefits.” We have also learned that Zhang Ming has been on hunger strike in prison since November 18, 2003 in protest against this second instance of persecution.
Through Zhang Ming’s relatives and other sources close to the case, we learned that on September 9, 2002, the Shanghai Public Security Bureau took Zhang Ming into custody on the charge of “endangering public safety.” They claimed that Zhang Ming was planning to blow up a building or buildings. But Zhang Ming was eventually sentenced for “abuse of executive benefits,” an economic crime totally unrelated to national security. We also learned that the entire legal process was full of errors and irregularities including: no government witnesses appearing in court during either the first or the second trial; a government witness informing a defense lawyer that the evidence he was forced to provide was inaccurate, but refusing to testify after being threatened by the judge with a prison term of three to five years if he were to tell the truth; and the judge refusing to allow a defense witness to testify during trial. Additionally, we learned that Zhang Ming was subjected to considerable physical and mental abuse, including being tied to a bed for 113 hours without toilet access.
As a means of protesting his unfair sentence and to petition the Chinese Supreme People’s Court for a fair trial, Zhang Ming has been conducting a hunger strike for more than half a year. He has suffered severe weight loss and his health has deteriorated to a critical condition. It is not only a matter of Zhang Ming protesting his political persecution; we are also aware of people with political backgrounds similar to Zhang Ming’s who have experienced similar difficulties. Following their release from prison, they never again had an opportunity to fulfill their potential. Sooner or later the National Security Bureau would pick them up on some pretext and destroy everything they’d worked for. Zhang Ming is a classic example. After his release from prison in 1992, he concentrated on developing in the business sector; he stayed completely away from politics and circulated no political statements. He developed his company into a successful concern with many subsidiaries, but that company is now facing financial ruin because of Zhang Ming’s arrest and conviction. The National Security Bureau seems to operate according to a Chinese principle: No one who challenges the government can be allowed any leeway in China, and in particular they cannot be allowed to develop any economic strength that might allow them to challenge the government once again.
We strongly condemn such ruthless and vicious tactics against the patriotic students who protested in the streets against corruption in 1989. The Chinese central and local governments must ensure that there is no further persecution of those who took part in the just and patriotic protests in 1989. As the fifteenth anniversary of June 4th approaches, we note with special concern Zhang Ming’s life-and-death struggle for justice. We solemnly demand that Zhang Ming be subjected to no further political persecution, and that the Chinese Supreme Court grant Zhang Ming a speedy, fair and open trial at which all witnesses are allowed to testify. We hope the Chinese government will ensure that China is governed by law rather than by a few individuals, and thereby speed its incorporation into the international mainstream.
Signed: Wang Dan, Li Lu, Zhou Fengsuo, Feng Congde, Wu’er Kaixi, Wang Chaohua, Liu Gang, Zhang Boli and Wang Youcai
June 2, 2004