HONG KONG—Ten years after he
helped to found the first serious attempt at an opposition party in
China under Communist Party rule, Zha Jianguo is out of jail, vowing to ignore
police constraints against him and keep appealing his sentence for
"incitement to subvert state power."
"I told them when they let me go that I would continue to appeal my sentence because I felt that this was a miscarriage of justice," Zha said in his first public interview since his release on Saturday.
"That is my right as a citizen. So I intend to continue to pursue this as a wrong case against me, and appeal to have my name cleared and to have the case against me overturned."
Zha, who served a nine-year jail term for helping to found the China Democracy Party (CDP) in 1998, during a period of relative political openness known as the "second Beijing spring," said police had also set restrictions on him because his sentence included two years' deprivation of political rights.
"The day they let me go, they dispatched cars from the city and district Public Security bureaux to pick me up from jail and take me to the local police station," Zha said.
"Once inside the police station, they issued me with a warning, which they videotaped. They told me that during the period of deprivation of my political rights that I wasn't allowed to give any interviews to foreign reporters, and that if I wanted to go anywhere I had to ask for leave from them," he added.
But Zha, one of the first people to serve as chairman of the now-banned CDP and deputy head of the party's Beijing and Tianjin chapter, said he had already told the authorities back in the prison that he wouldn't recognize such restrictions.
"I told them I didn't accept any of the curbs they had in mind for me, and that I wouldn't comply with any of it," he said. "Of course, if they wanted to take steps to keep foreign journalists away from me then that would be up to them to see if they could."
He described his time in prison as "an opportunity" and a form of retreat, and "an education like no other."
He said his democratic ideals were unaffected by his time inside, where he was treated worse than fellow prisoners because he had refused to confess.
"The authorities treat you very differently if you have never confessed to your crime, as if you are not like the other inmates, and I had never confessed to my crime," Zha said, who said he was simply acting on the rights of citizens as enshrined in China's Constitution.
"For example, if some of the other inmates were allowed to meet up and eat
a meal with their family every two or three months or so, you would not be
allowed to eat with them; other inmates were also allowed to phone home once a
month but I wasn't. Other inmates were given parole, but I wasn't. That's the
way it was," he said.
UN rights covenant
He said he and fellow activists back in 1998 set up the CDP because they wanted to test out China's signing of the United Nations covenant on civil and political rights.
But by December 1998, three key figures of the movement—Xu Wenli, Wang Youcai, and Qin Yongmin—were being tried and sentenced to lengthy prison terms.
CDP branches and committees had been set up in more than 20 provinces, and the
arrest and jailing of CDP supporters continued well into 2000. More than 30
current or former CDP members remain in prison or in reeducation-through-labor
Original reporting in Mandarin by Xin Yu. Translated and written for the Web in English by Luisetta Mudie. Edited by Mandarin service director Jennifer Chou and Sarah Jackson-Han.