Dissidents Denied Family Visits

The families of political prisoners across China say they have been refused permission to visit their loved ones in jail over the traditional Lunar New Year holiday period.

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Hu Jia - 305 Hu Jia, photographed in 2007 while under house arrest in Beijing.

HONG KONG--Political prisoners across China are being denied family visits over the traditional Lunar New Year holiday period, their relatives and close friends said.

The daughter of Wuhan dissident Qin Yongmin, who is serving a 12-year jail term for subversion, said she had been hoping to visit her father for the first time in 11 years, but when she arrived at Wuhan Prison she was refused permission to visit.

"I had everything prepared. It didn't occur to me that I wouldn't be let in," A Dan said. "They just said it, just like that."

"I'm very disappointed. I had hoped to spend Lunar New Year with my father."

A Dan said she had only received one letter from Qin, who was sentenced to prison in 1998, when she was just eight years old.

"It was numbered, so I could see that there were more than 20 letters which he wrote before it," she said.

'Singled out'

"He mostly talked about what kind of person I should try to be. I will try to act according to his standards and according to my personal circumstances when dealing with things in my life."

Qin's ex-wife Li Jingfang said other inmates of the prison were allowed to spend time with their families at Lunar New Year.

"All the inmates convicted of criminal offences had visits from people. They were eating dumplings together with their family. Only he wasn't allowed," Li said.

"I think this is a form of revenge on the part of the prison authorities because Qin's case has drawn a lot of attention from the outside world. Now, they aren't going to take good care of him, and they may even make life more difficult for him."

Calls to Wuhan Prison went unanswered during office hours this week.

The wife of blind family planning activist Chen Guangcheng said she had also been refused permission to see her husband in Linyi Municipal Prison in the eastern province of Shandong ahead of the Year of the Ox. She has asked for his release on medical parole as he is suffering from diarrhea, she said.

Charter activist detained

In Beijing, independent writer Liu Xiaobo, who signed the "Charter 08" document calling for broad-sweeping political change, was still being detained by police, who denied requests for a meeting from his wife, Liu Xia.

"Before the Chinese New Year, Liu Xiaobo’s wife Liu Xia requested a meeting with her husband, but police didn’t allow her to visit," fellow writer and Independent Chinese PEN spokesman Jiang Qisheng said.

And AIDS activist Hu Jia, serving a three-and-a-half year sentence for subversion, was last visited by his mother in December.

"We Chinese miss members of our family even more at festivals," Hu's mother said. "During our meeting, Hu Jia expressed his concerns about his child [one-year old Hu Qianci]."

"His wife Zeng Jinyan is now not in Beijing and we are planning to visit Hu Jia when Jinyan comes back," she said, calling on the authorities to release her son, who suffers from hepatitis, on medical parole.

Meanwhile, Nanjing former university professor Guo Quan was denied permission to meet either a lawyer or his wife.

Wife to re-open site

"There is no news on Guo Quan," Guo's wife Li Jing said. "Police say now they are still investigating the case. But they also revealed that my husband would be sentenced to a jail term."

Guo was arrested last November on charges of subversion after he tried to set up an opposition party. He was fired from Nanjing Normal University on Dec. 6, 2007 for allegedly violating its constitution and rules on the conduct of faculty.

On Dec. 14, 2007, he was expelled from the Communist-approved token opposition group Democratic Parties and Factions, and on Dec. 17 announced the founding of the New People's Party, with himself as chairman.

In the southwestern city of Chengdu, the wife of cyber-dissident Huang Qi said she had still received no news of her husband, detained for the last seven months.

Huang's wife, Zeng Li, is still trying to get further details on his case from police. She has vowed to restart his tianwang.com Web site after it was shut down by police.

Former member of the banned China Democracy Party He Depu did receive a visit from his wife Jan. 21, although he was unable to speak to her freely in his Beijing jail.

'No mood' to celebrate

"As we spoke there were three guards standing behind him, and therefore he couldn’t talk too much," He's wife Jia Jianying said. "When he said he wanted me to talk to the managing officer of the ward on irregularities in the prison, the guards nudged him to stop."

Yang Chunlin, a worker from the northeastern city of Jiamusi, was sentenced to 5 years' imprisonment for coining the slogan, "We want human rights but not the Olympics," in 2008.

Yang was in good health Jan. 22 when his wife visited him. But his sister Yang Chunping said the family had scant cause for celebration. "We aren't in the mood to celebrate Chinese New Year," she said.

"All of us feel that with my elder brother behind bars, we cannot even talk about the New Year."

Original reporting in Mandarin by Fang Yuan and Xin Yu, and in Cantonese by Grace Kei Lai-see. Cantonese service director: Shiny Li. Mandarin service director: Jennifer Chou. Translated and written for the Web in English by Luisetta Mudie and Chen Ping.


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