Activist Held After Release From Prison

A formerly jailed democracy advocate says that political change is inevitable in China.

qinyongmincrop2_305.jpg Qin Yongmin (L) meets with a colleague following his release from prison. Credit: Chen Yunfei

Authorities in the central Chinese city of Wuhan have released veteran pro-democracy activist Qin Yongmin after confining him for five days in a holiday apartment outside town following his earlier release from prison, Qin said on Wednesday.

"More than a dozen people surrounded me and said they were going to take me on a trip at their expense," Qin said.

"I said that this was tantamount to kidnapping ... and that the measures they were taking against me were illegal."

Qin, who was released from prison on Nov. 29 after serving a 12-year prison term for "endangering state security," said he has been placed under 24-hour surveillance by officials from his home district in Wuhan since his release on Sunday from the resort.

He was also closely watched while being held in the resort, he said.

"One of the people in the room with me was the security director from the residents' association, and the neighborhood committee sent a couple of people along too," he said.

"These three people accompanied me at all times during the day."

He said national security police had also posted officers in his room.

"They all said that they were following orders from higher up," said Qin, who said he had been well fed at the authorities' expense, though he gave most of the food to his minders.

"Every day they gave me fish and meat to eat, and they even sent fruit over specially," he said. "Their lives are ordinarily very hard ... I have been on a diet so as to maintain my physical and mental energy."

Ignored warnings

Qin had ignored warnings following his release that he should keep a low profile, publishing an open letter to President Hu Jintao in which he called for the release of jailed Nobel peace prize laureate Liu Xiaobo.

He also released a statement saying that the now-banned China Democracy Party (CDP) he helped found was "the future."

"I was nominated for the 1999 Nobel peace prize, and Liu Xiaobo was nominated and won it this year... We have a responsibility to make a bit of noise [about that]," Qin said.

Qin said he had been warned by police not to write any more articles, as he had also been deprived of his political rights.

"I told them that according to international norms, that usually refers to the right to vote and the right to stand for election," Qin said.

"Everything else is the right of the citizen, and they can't be stripped away."

'Change in thinking'

Qin, who has spent a total of 22 years in prison for political dissent, said that he saw a profound difference in the mindset of the security guards and police who watched over him, compared with 10 or 20 years before.

"On the whole, it's possible to have a positive interaction with most of the low-ranking employees," Qin said. "There are a few exceptions."

"There has been a fundamental change in their thinking," Qin said. "Not a single person cares about protecting the system, or about protecting the single-party dictatorship."

"Peaceful transformation in the direction of pluralism and democratic politics cannot be far off now ... Nobody is contradicting it. They just lack a certain momentum."

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.

Aside from Qin, Hangzhou-based CDP founder Wang Youcai and Beijing-based Xu Wenli received 11-year and 13-year jail terms respectively for being linked to the opposition party. Both were later exiled to the United States on medical parole.

Reported by Qiao Long for RFA's Mandarin service. Translated and written in English by Luisetta Mudie.


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