Police Freeze Dissident's Assets

Ahead of his release after a 12-year jail term, pro-democracy activist Qin Yongmin's bank account is frozen.
2010-11-26
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File picture dated Nov.16, 1993 shows Chinese dissident Qin Yongmin at a press conference in Beijing.
File picture dated Nov.16, 1993 shows Chinese dissident Qin Yongmin at a press conference in Beijing.
AFP

Authorities in the central Chinese city of Wuhan have frozen the bank account of a veteran pro-democracy activist who is due to be released on Monday, according to his ex-wife and a police officer.

Qin Yongmin is soon to reach the end of a 12-year jail term handed down in 1998 for "endangering state security" after he edited a human-rights newsletter and helped set up the banned China Democracy Party (CDP).

His ex-wife Li Jinfang said the national security police had frozen the couple's bank account, and had since refused to unfreeze Qin's money.

"I told them that we hoped they would unfreeze the money soon, because Qin Yongmin needed it," Li said.

"They said they were still carrying out investigations, and that we still hadn't told them where the money came from."

"They don't need a reason for what they do. They just want to persecute him," she added.

Unconstitutional

Li said that Qin's conviction for subversion was unconstitutional, and that she was concerned that he might be held under house arrest even after his release, like many activists in the wake of jailed dissident Liu Xiaobo's Nobel Peace Prize award.

"He is being released at an unusual time," Li said. "I am worried that even though he comes home, they still won't let him have his freedom back completely, or that they might keep him cut off from the outside world."

Li said the police had also questioned her about articles she might have written.

"There were two people there and they asked me what I'd been doing lately. I said that I'd been sitting at home waiting for them to unfreeze the money," she said.

"Then they asked me if I'd written any articles. They said...they wanted to keep track of developments in my thinking."

National security police officer Ma Xiaodong, who was one of the officers who spoke to Li, said the decision to unfreeze Qin's assets had to come from higher up.

Qin has been told that he will be released from Hanyang Prison on Monday, but that he must leave copies of letters and other writings behind him.

Meeting plans

His brothers and daughter are planning to meet him when he is released, said one brother, who saw Qin last weekend in jail.

"His health isn't too bad," Qin's brother said. "Really, the big problem is his eyesight. He can't read for very long at a time.""He hasn't had an eye test, so we don't know what the reason is," he added.

Fellow CDP activist Gao Hongming said the Chinese police routinely interfere with the lives of dissidents and their families, insulting them, confiscating their belongings and freezing their bank accounts.

"These people's lives are hard enough already," Gao said. "Especially Li Jinfang, who hasn't had an income for so many years, and who has struggled to find money to keep her daughter."

Fellow Wuhan-based CDP member Lu Xinhua, who has himself served a four-year jail term for his involvement in the party, said he was glad to hear that Qin would soon be released.

"I have been inside myself, and I have experienced fully how hard life is inside prison," Lu said."And yet you can't talk about our two experiences in the same breath. He has been in there for 12 years...He won't recognize what he sees when he gets out."

"He will have to rebuild all aspects of his life again from scratch," he said.

An employee who answered the phone at the Hanyang municipal jail said they knew little about Qin's case, and declined to comment further.

Veteran dissident

The 57-year-old Qin is a veteran dissident who was initially sentenced to eight years in prison for "counterrevolutionary propaganda and subversion" in the wake of the Democracy Wall movement in 1981.

A contemporary of exiled dissident Wei Jingsheng, Qin served a further two years' "re-education through labor" in 1993 after he penned a controversial document titled "Peace Charter."

By 1998, Qin was the editor of the Human Rights Observer newsletter, and one of a number of political activists who attempted to register the CDP.

He was sentenced to a 12-year prison term in 1998. Hangzhou-based CDP founder Wang Youcai and Beijing-based Xu Wenli received 11-year and 13-year jail terms respectively. Both were later exiled to the United States on medical parole.

In September, authorities in the eastern province of Zhejiang released another CDP founding member, dissident writer Chen Shuqing, who served a four-year prison term for subversion.

Reported by Qiao Long for Radio Free Asia's Mandarin Service and by Grace Kei Lai-see for the Cantonese Service. Translated and written in English by Luisetta Mudie.

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