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China Democracy Party founders hit with harsh sentences

December 21, 1998

Human Rights in China is outraged with the sentencing of China Democracy Party (CDP) founders Wang Youcai and Xu Wenli to prison terms of 11 and 13 years, respectively. The sentences were handed down after separate one-day trials that were closed to the public. Both Wang Youcai and Xu Wenli were tried on subversion charges, and effectively denied legal representation, were forced to present their own defense. Qin Yongmin, a fellow initiator of the CDP was tried on December 17, 1998, but sentencing has not been announced. Xu Wanping was sentenced to 3 years of Reeducation Through Labor for his active involvement in the CDP. The crackdown on CDP members is part of the Chinese government's latest wave of political repression that perpetuates its practice of hostage politics.

The Chinese government is using the pretense of the law and courts to expressly deprive the Chinese people of their rights and liberties. Human Rights in China condemns both the imprisonment and exile of democracy advocates as a means to silence calls for reform.

"This is a travesty of justice. Xu Wenli, Wang Youcai, Qin Yongmin and others are not attempting to subvert the Chinese government. They are simply trying to hold the government accountable to its own people. Government repression cannot diminish the Chinese people's desire and demands for democratic change," said Xiao Qiang, Executive Director of Human Rights in China.

Human Rights in China is attaching a list of 18 illustrative cases of human rights defenders and democracy activists who are imprisoned this year. Although this list provides just a glimpse of the reality of China's human rights situation, it demonstrates a pattern of continued and widespread political persecution.

18 illustrative cases
December 21, 1998


Fang Jue, a former government official turned businessman, disappeared around July 25, 1998. Fang Jue was the primary drafter of "China Needs a New Transformation," a proposal for political change in China that was published in January 1998 in the foreign press. Fang Jue's relatives did not hear from him until the end of September 1998, when they were notified that he had been charged with "fraud" a month earlier, on August 28, 1998. He is held in Bambuqiao, Beijing Detention Center No. 44.

Fan Yiping was fined 10,000 yuan and sentenced to three years' imprisonment by the Guangzhou Intermediate People's Court on July 21. During the trial, which began on July 13, Fan pleaded not guilty to the charge of illegally organizing Wang Xizhe's flight to Hong Kong in October 1996. The trial was riddled with discrepancies including forced witness testimony, absent witnesses and insufficient notification. A company manager, Fan, 43, was detained in March, and formally arrested in May 1998. During the Democracy Wall movement Fan headed the unofficial publication Voice of the People.

Li Bifeng, 34, a labor activist and former tax department employee, was found guilty of "fraud" by the Mianyang People's Court (Sichuan) in late August. After a one-day trial that lacked all due process, Li was sentenced to seven years' imprisonment. Li was detained in March 1998 and charged one month later. A representative of the unofficial Chinese Conscience and Care Action organization, he released information about laid-off workers' protests and living conditions. In December 1997, Li wrote to the central committee of the Chinese Communist Party to urge them to "free all political prisoners... and end one-party rule." He denounced the policy of sending dissidents into exile and insisted that national elections should be held. He spent five years in prison for his involvement in the 1989 pro-democracy movement.

Lin Hai, a 30-year-old computer company owner in Shanghai, was detained on March 25, 1998, after he allegedly provided Chinese e-mail addresses to the U.S.-based on-line magazine Dacankao (VIP Reference). VIP Reference, which is described by prosecutors as a "hostile foreign publication," compiles and distributes articles on dissident activities, human rights and other issues to more than 200,000 e-mail addresses in China. Lin Hai's trial begun on December 4, 1998, behind closed doors because of the "state secrets" allegedly involved in his case. His wife has been denied all visits since his initial detention.

Qin Yongmin, activist and author, was arrested on November 30, 1998 for "endangering state security." Chinese officials claimed that his role in preparing for the establishment of the China Democracy Party "breached the relevant provisions of China's criminal laws." His trial is scheduled for December 17, 1998. Qin served seven years in prison for his participation in the Democracy Wall Movement and three years in Reeducation Through Labor for his participation in drafting the Peace Charter.

Sheng Liangqing, 35, a former public prosecutor in Anhui, was sentenced in March to two years of Reeducation Through Labor for "disturbing social order." Shen had issued a number of open letters to the government and published critical essays abroad, which led to repeated detentions. In January 1997 he had been retroactively sentenced to 17 months' imprisonment for his role in drafting, printing and distributing "subversive" pamphlets in Hefei in 1991.

Wang Tingjin, 43, a math teacher in Anhui, was sentenced in April 1998 to two years of Reeducation Through Labor for "disturbing social order." In February he spent one month in detention after meeting with New York-based dissident Wang Bingzhang, on a clandestine trip to China. Wang Tingjin served two years in prison for his involvement in the Democracy Wall Movement of the late 70s.

Wang Youcai, 32, a former student democracy leader, was detained on November 2, 1998 in connection with his leading role in seeking to officially establish the China Democracy Party (CDP). He was formally charged on November 30, 1998 for "conspiring to subvert the government," organizing a meeting of party supporters, using e-mail to send party materials abroad, and accepting funds from overseas to buy a computer. He was sentenced to 11years' imprisonment after being tried by the Hangzhou Intermediate Court on December 17, 1998. Wang had been detained for 50 days following an attempt to register the CDP in July.

Wu Ruojie, 36, a rock musician in Guizhou, and Li Xi were sentenced in early April 1998 to a three-year term of Reeducation Through Labor for "leaking state secrets;" Liu Xianli, detained around the same time, was tried in fall 1998 on charges of "inciting to subvert the government." His sentence has not been announced. The three men were connected to an unofficial cultural revival movement called "Renaissance." Wu Ruojie's detention occurred after an interview to a foreign journalist where he reported the detention, in January 1998, of several Guizhou poets, the founders of "Renaissance." They had tried unsuccessfully to launch a literary review. Among them were Wu Ruohai (Wu Ruojie's brother) and Xiong Jinren, who were released after a short period in detention. Another poet, Ma Zhe, was detained on January 26, 1998 and has since been charged with "disturbing social order." The date of his trial has not been announced.

Xu Wenli, 55, was arrested on November 30, 1998 for "endangering state security" in connection with his efforts to officially establish the China Democracy Party. On the night he was taken away by the police, officers made an exhaustive search of his home, confiscating a computer, address books and documents related to the opposition party. His was sentenced to 13 years' imprisonment following a one-day trial on December 21, 1998. A veteran democracy activist, Xu served 12 years in prison following his participation in the Democracy Wall Movement in 1979.

Yang Qinheng, 44, was arrested in late February 1998 and sentenced to three years' of Reeducation-Through-Labor in April 1998. Active in petition campaigns, Yang called for the reassessment of the official verdict on the Tiananmen Square Massacre and the release of political prisoners. He read on Radio Free Asia an open letter that condemned China's policy on unemployment and argued for the right to form free trade unions. Yang, an activist from the Democracy Wall Movement, served a two-year term for "counter-revolutionary propaganda" in 1983 and a three-year Reeducation term for staging a demonstration for the release of dissident Zhang Xianliang in 1994.

Zhang Shanguang, a Hunan labor activist, was detained on July 21 and formally arrested on August 28. His detention is believed to be connected to his intention to set up the Association to Protect Workers' Rights. On August 6, he was beaten by members of a police-appointed militia because he allegedly failed to respond to questions about the background of the Association and his overseas connections. Zhang's tuberculosis has recurred and he is spitting blood, a possible result of ill-treatment in detention, where he is denied medical care.

Zhao Changqing, 28, was sentenced in early September by the Hanzhong Intermediate Court (Shaanxi) to an unspecified prison term. In addition to the date and length of his sentence, his current place of detention is kept secret, as well as the charges against him. Zhao was detained after he tried to run in local legislative elections. Although he had gathered enough supporting signatures, he was told that only CCP cadres at or above the deputy director rank were eligible. Zhao was detained for 6 months following his involvement in the 1989 pro-democracy movement.