Wednesday, March 6, 2024

Dui Hua Hits Important Milestone

Image credit: Dui Hua

Since the Dui Hua Foundation was established in 1999, it has composed and handed over 500 written requests for information on prisoners to the Chinese government. The Chinese government has never refused to accept a list from Dui Hua. 

In the past 25 years, Dui Hua has asked about 2,210 prisoners, of whom 396 were females and 1,316 were males (gender is not known in all cases). The foundation received responses on 1,070 prisoners, of whom 235 were females and 726 were male (gender is not known in all cases). Dui Hua has learned of 454 acts of clemency and better treatment afforded to 294 prisoners on its lists. 

Dui Hua’s Political Prisoner Database, used to generate prisoner lists, has grown from a few hundred names on notecards in 1999 to 48,699 names at the end of 2023. 

Individuals in the PPDB from 2004-2023. Image credit: Dui Hua

Prior to Dui Hua’s establishment in 1999, founder John Kamm actively engaged the Chinese government in a dialogue focused on prisoners, submitting hundreds of lists and receiving responses on more than a thousand prisoners. Unfortunately, good records were not kept. 

Dui Hua advocates for at-risk detainees — political and religious prisoners and other individuals facing coercive measures. Individuals have been subjected to coercive measures including detention, arrest, imprisonment, and residential surveillance in a designated location, among others. Most names raised by Dui Hua are largely unknown outside of China.

Recipients of Dui Hua lists have included the State Council Information Office, Ministry of Justice, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Supreme People’s Court, State Administration for Religious Affairs, provincial and municipal governments, and government backed policy thinktanks.  

As judicial transparency deteriorated, the number of prisoners about whom information has been provided has decreased but has nevertheless continued. In 2024, nine lists have thus far been accepted and two responses on eight prisoners have been received. 

Sample of prisoner lists from August 1999 (left) and June 2000 (right). Image credit: Dui Hua 

Important acts of clemency that Dui Hua has learned of through active interventions include: 

Xu Wenli (徐文立). Xu was a prominent political dissident who was dubbed “China’s special prisoner number one.” Xu co-founded the China Democracy Party (CDP) and organized activities during the 1979 Democracy Wall Movement leading to his sentence of 15 years in prison in 1982. Kamm’s intervention contributed to parole in 1993. Xu was subsequently convicted of subversion and sentenced to 13 years in prison and three years DPR in 1998. This was Xu’s second imprisonment. Dui Hua inquired about his case eight times during 2000 and 2002. China provided eight responses. Those efforts contributed to Xu being granted medical parole in 2002 and receiving permission to seek medical treatment abroad. Kamm and Dui Hua also successfully advocated for other June 4 protesters and members of the CDP, including Wang Youcai (王有才).  

Zhang Lin (张林). A veteran activist, Zhang was tried and convicted in five separate trials between 1991 and 2014. Kamm and Dui Hua raised his name on ten lists and received eight responses. Dui Hua assisted a women’s rights activist to bring Zhang’s daughters to the United States, then with stakeholders to secure his passage to the United States in 2018.  

Jigme Sangpo (晋美桑布). Takna Jigme Sangpo was a Tibetan school teacher and advocate for Tibetan independence. He was believed to be the longest serving prisoner convicted of counterrevolution. Dui Hua assisted in negotiations, one of which took place in Lhasa. Jigme Sangpo was released in 2002 on medical parole and allowed to come to the United States for medical treatment before taking up residence outside Zurich, Switzerland. Dui Hua submitted eight inquiries between 1999 and 2003, and Kamm submitted at least two in 1995 before the foundation's establishment. He received six responses. Takna Jigme Sangpo passed away on October 17, 2020, at the age of 91. 

Ngawang Sangdrol (阿旺桑珍). At the age of 13, Ngawang Sangdrol was convicted of counterrevolutionary propaganda and incitement and sentenced to three years of imprisonment with one year deprivation of political rights (DPR) in 1992. Her sentence was then extended three times to 23 years. Ngawang was the youngest of 13 women known as the “singing nuns of Drapchi.” They secretly recorded and smuggled protest songs out of prison. Ngawang was granted a sentence reduction in 2001 and parole in 2002. John Kamm visited Lhasa in early 2003 and met with Ngawang. Dui Hua helped secure her departure to the United States for medical treatment that same year. Dui Hua made 11 inquiries between 2001 and 2003, either directly to the Chinese government or through governments that held human rights dialogues with China. The Chinese government provided ten responses. Dui Hua also assisted in efforts to secure the early release of another “singing nun,” Phuntsog Nyidron, in 2004.

Xu Zerong (徐泽荣). Xu, a Hong Kong resident and respected expert on China’s military history, was detained in 2000 and accused of stealing state secrets and illegal business activity. He received a combined sentence of 13 years, with three years of DPR. From 2002 to 2011, Dui Hua raised Xu’s case on 28 lists, directly or through stakeholders, and received 26 responses. Those efforts contributed to three sentence reductions, totaling 24 months. Kamm visited the prison where Xu was first incarcerated and pressed the warden to provide better treatment. Xu was transferred to a “model prison” and released in 2011. 

Rebiya Kadeer (热比亚•卡德尔). A prominent Uyghur businesswoman and representative to the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference, Rebiya was placed in custody in August 1999 after attempting to meet with staff of a US congressional delegation that was visiting Urumqi. She was convicted of illegally providing state secrets to an overseas entity in 2000 and sentenced to eight years in prison and two years of DPR. Dui Hua submitted eight inquiries between 2002 and 2004 to the Chinese government and received more than 20 responses. Dui Hua’s efforts contributed to a one-year sentence reduction in 2004 and medical parole in 2005. She was allowed to seek medical treatment aboard.  

Liang Jiantian (梁鉴添). Owner of a small printing shop in Guangzhou, Liang was convicted of illegal business activities, including publishing Falun Gong materials, and sentenced to life in prison in 2000. Dui Hua put Liang’s name on 20 lists and received 18 responses contributing to seven sentence reductions. Liang was released in October 2021.  

Tenzin Delek Rinpoche (丹增德勒仁波切, 阿安扎西). An influential Tibetan monk from Ganzi, Sichuan. An outspoken advocate for local Tibetan autonomy, he led efforts to provide education to poor children and orphans in the region. The authorities accused Tenzin Delek of involvement in several explosions in Chengdu and Ganzi. He was convicted of inciting splittism and setting off explosions and given a sentence of death with two-year reprieve in 2002. The sentence was later commuted to life in 2005. Dui Hua raised the case directly and through governments on 31 lists and received 31 responses during 2002 and 2015. Despite being in poor health, the prison authorities refused to grant him medical parole. Tenzin Delek Rinpoche passed away in July 2015 at the age of 65. The authorities refused to release the body back to the family for a proper burial, fearing potential social unrest. Dui Hua found and provided the family with government regulations that required the body to be treated with respect for ethnic traditions. The government relented. 

Shi Tao (师涛). Shi was an editor of a provincial newspaper in Hunan. In 2005, he received an internal notice instructing reporters not to cover the upcoming 15th anniversary of the June 4th crackdown, Shi described the post on an overseas website. He was detained in 2004 and sentenced to ten years for providing state secrets to an overseas entity. Dui Hua uncovered the connection between a US internet company and the case and attended a congressional hearing on the case. Shi was released in 2013.  

Yao Wentian (姚文田). Publisher and bookstore owner based in Hong Kong. (He is the father of Yao Yongzhan, John Kamm’s first intervention that took place in 1990.) He was convicted for smuggling common goods and sentenced to ten years in 2013. He received a short sentence reduction in 2019. Although the prison authorities refused to consider medical parole for Yao, he was placed in the medical ward of the prison for most of his sentence, exempted from physical labor, and allowed to receive monthly visits from his wife. Yao returned to Hong Kong on February 27, 2023. 

Li Yan (李彦). A woman from Anyue County in Sichuan was sentenced to death for murdering her abusive husband in 2012. The Supreme People’s Court affirmed the judgment in January 2013. In February 2014, Dui Hua convened an international conference on women in prison in which judges from the Supreme People’s Court took part. Topics of domestic violence were discussed. A judge and another official from the court told Dui Hua that what they heard was helpful in reversing the lower court’s decision. In June 2014, the SPC issued a decision to the Sichuan High Court to hold a retrial. The sentence was changed to death with two-year reprieve in April 2015.

Chen Taihe (陈泰和). A lawyer in Guilin, Guangxi, an associate professor at Guilin Electronic Technology University Law School, and an advocate of adopting the jury system, Chen was one of more than 300 lawyers and activists interrogated or detained in the “709” a national-wide police action in 2015, later known as the “7.09” crackdown. Dui Hua worked closely with Chinese officials and diplomats from China and the United States to secure a passport and permission for Chen’s departure for the United States in 2016.