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Liu Nianchun released as hostage game continues

December 20, 1998

Liu Nianchun, veteran democracy and labor activist, was released on medical parole today and exiled to the United States. His release comes after more than one year in incommunicado detention, over two years of Reeducation Through Labor, and protracted mistreatment. Human Rights in China welcomes Liu's release, but emphasizes that it comes under condition of exile and amid a heightened wave of political repression. In the last few weeks the Chinese authorities have rounded-up dozens of activists for their involvement in attempting to register the China Democracy Party (CDP), the first openly-established independent political party in the history of the PRC. The separate trials of CDP initiators Wang Youcai and Qin Yongmin began on December 17, 1998. Xu Wenli, a fellow founder of the CDP, will be tried on December 21, 1998, within hours of Liu Nianchun's release.

"Liu Nianchun's long-awaited release is welcomed. But this should not cloud international opinion on China's dismal human rights situation. As Liu Nianchun gains freedom in exile, many more are being detained, imprisoned and stripped of their basic human rights. The Chinese government continues to play hostage politics with no true commitment to international human rights standards," said Xiao Qiang, Executive Director of Human Rights in China. Human Rights in China denounces the practice of hostage politics and demands the release of Wang Youcai, Qin Yongmin, Xu Wenli and all others detained for their involvement in the CDP.

Liu Nianchun, 49, a former teacher and student of Chinese literature, was sentenced to three years' Reeducation Through Labor on July 4, 1996 for "accepting illegal aid from human rights organizations abroad," "drafting an appeal in collaboration with former student leader Wang Dan that slandered the government," and "unauthorized labor activities." Shortly after helping to initiate the pro-democracy petition "Draw Lessons from Blood" and signing another petition calling for "a spirit of tolerance in China's political life," Liu was seized without warrant on May 21, 1995. Liu then "disappeared" until the day his Reeducation sentence was announced.

Contrary to normal practice, the thirteen-month long detention before Liu's Reeducation term was not counted as time served. In May 1997 his term was then extended by 216 days because he had "refused to reform." When Liu went on hunger strike to protest the arbitrary extension of his sentence, labor camp authorities responded with food and water deprivation, electric torture, and confinement. Healthy when first detained, Liu became extremely ill, suffering from a blocked intestine, rectal bleeding, mouth sores and chronic stomach pain.

Liu previously spent three years in prison for "counterrevolutionary propaganda and incitement" after participating in the Democracy Wall Movement of the late 1970s. In 1993 he helped draft the "Peace Charter," and in 1994 he spent over seven months in detention without charge for attempting to establish the League for the Protection of the Rights of the Working People.

His wife Chu Hailan and mother Wu Huifen launched a courageous campaign for Liu's release, and were consequently subjected to repeated interrogations, detentions and intense police surveillance. Liu Nianchun's wife and daughter accompany him in exile.

For more information, see "People" session on Liu Nianchun at our website.

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