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Dissident Liu Jingsheng’s Release Imminent

November 22, 2004

Human Rights in China (HRIC) has learned that dissident Liu Jingsheng will be released from prison on November 27, two and a half years prior to completion of his original sentence, in what is seen as a conciliatory gesture toward the dissident community by the Hu Jintao-Wen Jiabao government.

Liu Jingsheng was detained on May 28, 1992, and on December 16, 1994 was sentenced to 15 years in prison on charges of "organizing and leading a counterrevolutionary organization" and "inciting counterrevolutionary subversion." He was due for release in May 2007, but sources in Beijing told HRIC that Liu will instead be released at the end of this week.

Liu Jingsheng, 50, is one of China’s most well-known dissidents after participated in the Democracy Wall movement in 1978 with Wei Jingsheng and publishing the underground magazine Exploration. Liu and Wei were arrested together at the time of the Democracy Wall Movement, but while Wei was sentenced to prison, a custodial sentence was not imposed on Liu. After the 1989 Democracy Movement, Liu Jingsheng joined up with Hu Shigen, Kong Yuchun and others to establish the China Freedom and Democracy Party, and was also active in the independent labor union movement. It is for these activities that Liu was ultimately sentenced to 15 years in prison. People familiar with the trial proceedings recall an emotional scene where Liu was forcibly separated from his family, and that Liu, Hu and the others cried out, "Long live democracy! Long live freedom!" when their sentences were pronounced.

The reason for Liu’s early release is not known at this time. However, knowledgeable sources speculate that the release is a conciliatory gesture by the Hu-Wen government, which has come under domestic and international censure for its heavy-handedness towards dissidents.

Liu has suffered considerable abuse and illness since his detention. Because of his lack of cooperation with the authorities, he at one point had his hands and feet shackled for 104 days. Liu suffers from heart ailments, high blood pressure and intestinal illness. Requests by his family for him to receive medical treatment outside of prison have been repeatedly denied.

As Liu was additionally sentenced to four years’ deprivation of political rights following release, even after he returns home his freedom of expression and association will be severely curtailed, and he will not be allowed to participate in elections or work in a government organization.

"We welcome Liu Jingsheng’s early release and hope that he will soon return to health under the care of his family and qualified doctors," said HRIC president Liu Qing. "However, we would like to see the Chinese government restore Liu’s full political rights immediately upon his release. More importantly, if this is indeed a gesture by the Hu-Wen government to demonstrate a more tolerant attitude toward political dissent, we hope the government will reflect this attitude further by no longer arresting and imprisoning dissidents, journalists, labor activists, religious practitioners and others who are exercising the rights guaranteed to them by the Chinese constitution."

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