Letters to Jailed Dissidents Withheld

Chinese authorities tighten prison surveillance as they round up critics.

2011.05.23
090812-Tanzuoren-boxun.jpg Chinese writer Tan Zuoren.
Photo: Boxun

Chinese authorities have withheld letters and postcards sent by the public to two prominent dissidents amid a crackdown on dissent since the beginning of the year, according to their wives.

In southwestern Sichuan province, Wang Qinghua, the wife of jailed dissident Tan Zuoren, said she learned during a prison visit that he had not been receiving letters since his sentencing in February 2009.

“He told me he hasn’t received any letters, though he is aware that many postcards have been mailed to him from outside. He has never seen one of them,” Wang said in an interview on Monday.

When asked how Tan knew about the postcards, Wang said Tan “probably found out from the guards.”

Tan, a writer and activist, was convicted and sentenced to five years in jail for “subversion” after he investigated local corruption following a deadly earthquake that devastated Sichuan in May 2008.

“He can read books now in his cell and I sent him some books,” Wang said.

Tan was not physically abused in jail but had suffered mentally, she said. “He has been staying with a variety of criminals and can hardly talk to any one of them,” she said.

“The only one he can communicate with is the head of the prison.”

A Chinese crackdown since February sparked by online calls for a "Jasmine" revolution in the wake of recent uprisings in the Middle East has led to the arrest of dozens of lawyers, writers, artists, and other perceived critics.

Chen Mingxian, the wife of another jailed dissident, Liu Xianbin, also reported that her husband’s communications with the outside world had been blocked by prison officials in Sichuan.

Strict monitoring

Liu “is only permitted to see letters from family members but not those from any other acquaintances. They are strictly monitoring him,” she said.

Meanwhile, dissident Huang Qi, who has been jailed since November 2009 for “illegal possession of state secrets” after he assisted victims of the Sichuan earthquake,  is expected to be released on June 9.

Huang was arrested in July 2008 after he had spent five years in jail since June 2000 for a separate "offense."

Fellow activist Pu Fei said supporters were sending donations to assist Huang after he became ill in jail.

“I visited Huang’s mother recently and learned that Huang has been unhealthy in prison. We are continuing to solicit donations for him and hopefully his release will enable him to recover soon.”

In a separate development, veteran dissident Qin Yongmin returned home on Monday after being held in detention for 10 days by police in Wuhan, in China’s central Hubei province.

“I denied the police accusation of my involvement with ‘organized activities,’” Qin said. “The only thing I am involved in, I told them, is operating as chief of our organization China Human Rights Watch,” he said.

“I will continue to protect the basic human rights of the Chinese people, as well as my own.”

Qin was one of the founding members of the influential dissident group China Democracy Party (CDP) in 1997 before he was arrested and charged with “subversion of state power.”

The Wuhan City Court sentenced Qin to 12 years in prison in 1998. He was released in November 2010.

Reported by Qiao Long and Xin Yu for Mandarin service. Translated and written in English by Ping Chen.

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