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Human Rights in China Mourns the Passing of Dissident-Writer Li Hong

January 7, 2011

Human Rights in China mourns the untimely death of Mr. Li Hong (力虹), and expresses its sincere condolences to his family.

In March 2007, Zhejiang dissident writer Li Hong, who had published novels in China and articles on overseas websites, was convicted of “inciting subversion of state power” and sentenced to six years in prison. Two months after he entered prison, he was diagnosed with a rare neurological disease. The authorities rejected multiple applications for medical parole until June 2010 when he had become completely paralyzed and was no longer able to speak. He passed away on December 31, 2010.

May his spirit live on.

Li Hong: A Chronology

Compiled by Human Rights in China

Li Hong’s original name was Zhang Jianhong (张建红). He was a poet, playwright, and freelance writer. He was also a member of the Independent Chinese PEN Center.

1958: Born in Yinxian, Zhejiang Province.
1975: Li was among the last groups of students to be sent to the countryside during the Cultural Revolution. After the Cultural Revolution ended, he was in one of the first classes to complete undergraduate studies.

1979: Began writing.

1980: Began publishing his works, and founded the student poetry journal Horizon (Diping Xian, 地平线) and literary magazine The World (Renjian, 人间), for which he came under police surveillance.
1985: Joined the Zhejiang Writers Association, became editor of the magazine Literarye Harbor (Wenxue Gang, 文学港), and wrote a regular column entitled “East China Poetry Circle” (Huadong Shitan, 华东诗坛).

1987: Joined the Chinese Writers Association’s Youth Poetry Forum and started taking classes at the Lu Xun Literary Institute. Collected works published included “Imaginary Subway” (Xiangxiangzhong De Ditie, 想象中的地铁), “City Dreams” (Cheng Zhimeng, 城之梦), and “City Quartet” (Chengshi Sichongzou, 城市四重奏).

Li’s representative works have been collected in several important anthologies of 20th Century Chinese poetry, such as An Anthology of New Chinese Poems of the 20th Century (二十世纪中国新诗选), A Connoisseur's Series of Modern Chinese Poetry of the 20th Century (二十世纪中国新诗鉴赏大系), and A Connoisseur's Dictionary of 20th Century Chinese Poetry (二十世纪中国探索诗鉴赏辞典). Li is recognized by critics as a representative poet of China's new era.

1988: Elected Vice Secretary of the Ningbo Writers Association, where he served as head of the poetry, prose, and reportage committees.

May 1989: During the 1989 Democracy Movement, Li Hong participated in organizing and mobilizing the Ningbo literary and press circles to support the student protests and marches in Beijing. Later he went to Beijing to join the protests in Tiananmen Square. On June 2, he returned to Ningbo.

June 4, 1989: After hearing of the “June Fourth Massacre,” Li publically protested the authorities’ violence and mourned the fallen students. He was classified as a “June 4 Special Case” by the Ningbo authorities.

August 3, 1989:  Li was detained for interrogation by the Ningbo Municipal Public Security Bureau.

December 1989: Li was ordered to serve three years of Reeducation-Through-Labor (RTL) on charges of “committing counterrevolutionary acts and incitement during June Fourth”.

End of 1990: Created an early draft of the lengthy poem “Pathetique in Four Chapters –Potato” (Beichuang Sizhang Tudou, 悲怆四章・土豆) while in RTL camp.

February 1991: Released from RTL camp after serving eighteen months. He lost his job and faced difficulties. He was also under strict surveillance.

1999: Detained by Beijing state security police for one month because of his contact with founders of the China Democracy Party.
2004: Became a writer-in-residence at Zhejiang Literary Institute.

2005: Finished  “Pathetique: Four Chapters” and his novel, The Clothes of Heaven are Short an Inch (Tianyichayicun天衣差一寸).

August 2005: Participated in founding the renowned literary website Aegean Sea (爱琴海) in Hangzhou, where he was the Editor-in-Chief.

January 2006: Published novel, Red Mill (Hongyi  Fang, 红衣坊). A 32 episode television series of the same name was based on it.

June 2006: Published A Century of Poems Selected by Li Hong (力虹世纪诗选).

March 9, 2006: In what became known the “Aegean Sea Incident,” Aegean Sea was shut down by authorities, prompting concern and protest from people within China and abroad. The incident led to a global signature campaign for an “Investigation into the constitutionality of the Provisional Regulations on China’s Internet.”

March 2006: Began writing for foreign-based websites and media outlets including Boxun, Democracy Net, Epoch Times, China E-Weekly, China Observer, and Democratic China.
June 10, 2006: Joined the Independent Chinese PEN Center and began writing a column for Epoch Times. Also started “Li Hong’s Library” for Democracy Net.

September 6, 2006: Taken from his home in Ningbo; was held in criminal detention the following day.

October 12, 2006: Formally arrested.

January 12, 2007: Tried in secret by the Ningbo Municipal Intermediate People’s Court

March 19, 2007: Convicted of “inciting subversion of state power” and sentenced to six years’ imprisonment and one year of deprivation of political rights.

May 15, 2007: Appeal rejected by the Zhejiang Provincial Higher People’s Court.

May 2007: Diagnosed with a rare neurological disease while in the prison hospital that resulted in severe muscle atrophy and a total loss of function in his arms. The disease spread to his legs and Li risked total paralysis. The Zhejiang provincial judicial authorities rejected the many applications by his family for medical parole.

June 5, 2010: The authorities approved medical parole. At this time, Li Hong was completely paralyzed, unable to speak, and could not breathe on his own. He relied on a ventilator to breathe and lived on I.V. fluid. Following his release, Li stayed in an intensive care unit.

December 31, 2010: Li died at age 52.