A Chinese civil rights activist has been released after a three-year prison term for subversion with profound memory loss, RFA has learned.
Huang Wenxun, 29, was released after serving a jail sentence handed down by a court in Chibi city in the central province of Hubei, but his friends and lawyer say he no longer appears to recognize them.
Huang had been targeted for his involvement in press freedom protests outside the Southern group of newspapers in the southern city of Guangzhou, after a local propaganda official rewrote the 2013 New Year's Day editorial to remove references to constitutional government.
He was held in prolonged pretrial incarceration after his initial detention by police in the southern province of Guangdong in June 2013.
Known as one of the Chibi Three, Huang was released on May 13, but was held under surveillance before finally being allowed to return to his home in Huizhou city, Guangdong.
But fellow activist Ye Xiaozheng, also known by his online nickname Humian Yizhou ("a boat on the lake"), said Huang didn't know who he was.
"I saw Huang Wenxun yesterday afternoon. Five of us went over there together," Ye told RFA on Thursday. "He said he didn't know who I was. He didn't recognize any of his old friends from Huizhou or his lawyer Sui Muqing."
"He didn't recognize any of them. He said he is suffering from severe memory loss, and he can't remember recent events, either," he said.
According to Ye, Huang was severely sleep-deprived during his entire incarceration, managing to sleep only four or five hours a night.
"We didn't stay long, and left early, because there are surveillance cameras installed all around Huang Wenxun's home, and there are people watching him," he said. "Some of them came over to warn us [not to visit]."
Stopped by police
The activists said they were stopped on their way home from Huang's house and taken down to the local police station for questioning.
"We hadn't driven very far before we were stopped by a police car," Ye said. "The police officer just targeted me. I have taken care of Huang Wenxun's father all these years, and I think the police just wanted to get their own back on me."
Online activist Chen Xiaorong was also among the group that visited Huang on Wednesday.
"He didn't talk like a young person any more: he sounded dull, and his reactions were very slow," Chen said. "I'm not sure but I thought it was maybe due to to medications he had been terrorized into taking."
"I wouldn't expect him to recognize me, but he was very good friends with [Ye]. It was because of him that he devoted himself to fighting for democracy," she said. "But when [Ye] asked him if he recognized him, he said he didn't know who he was."
"It's as if he has forgotten everything in the past five years."
Huang Wenxun was detained around the same time as fellow New Citizens' Movement activists Yuan Fengchu, also known as Yuan Bing, and Yuan Xiaohua, who were sentenced to three-and-a-half and four years respectively last month for "picking quarrels and stirring up trouble."
All three were held in prolonged pretrial incarceration after their initial detention by police in the southern province of Guangdong in June 2013.
Rights groups said at the time that Huang's trial was entirely political in nature, and targeted young activists campaigning for democracy and constitutional government.
Reported by Qiao Long for RFA's Mandarin Service. Translated and edited by Luisetta Mudie.