HONG KONG—A founding member of the banned opposition China Democracy Party (CDP) was released in Hangzhou on Tuesday after serving an 11-year jail term.
Wu Yilong, a publisher, was sentenced in 1999 when Chinese authorities in the southeastern province of Zhejiang cracked down on the fledgling dissident group.
Wu was imprisoned on charges of subversion for his influential role in setting up the Zhejiang branch of the CDP in 1998. His prison term was one of the longest ever meted out to any member nationwide.
Fellow members of the CDP had gone to the prison early on Sept. 14, hoping to welcome Wu as he was set free.
“We waited in front of the Zhejiang No. 4 Prison to receive Wu Yilong around 7 a.m., when we saw two plainclothes police officers also at the scene,” said Zhu Yufu, an activist who was jailed twice and spent nine years behind bars for his involvement in the CDP.
“When the police spotted us, they quietly transferred Wu Yilong straight to the Mingjing Hotel. We rushed to that hotel, too, where we saw Wu and his two brothers,” Zhu added.
At noon, dozens of activists held a welcoming party in a Hangzhou restaurant for Wu Yilong and Chen Shuqing, another party member released on Monday after completing a four-year jail term, also on subversion charges.
Wu Yilong expressed his joy and relief in a phone interview following his release, saying he was very happy about his reunion with so many old friends.
On his prison life, Wu said, “During these years I spent the majority of my time reading and writing, contemplating various issues.”
“Our cell had 20 inmates and we got up at 6 a.m. every morning, but I didn’t have to work.”
The recalcitrant intellectual recalled how he had used a seven-day hunger strike to gain the basic rights to read books and talk to other inmates.
“That was on June 4, 2000 when I began to refuse food, in marking the June 4 anniversary and in demanding better treatment, because neither reading nor speaking to others had been allowed for me in the very beginning,” Wu said.
On June 4, 1989, Chinese soldiers opened fire on students and other pro-democracy demonstrators centered in downtown Beijing’s Tiananmen Square, killing hundreds.
Wu said he had suffered from hemorrhoids, dermatitis, and other medical problems when he was initially locked up, but later improved his health through practicing Qi Gong and other Chinese traditional meditation.
Wu revealed that police have warned him not to take part in any political activities once freed. However, he said he would not give up his pursuit of democracy for China.
“I have no regrets, because this was my own choice. In fact [when founding the CDP], I had already considered the possibility of going to jail for about 10 years,” Wu said.
Newly-released Chen Shuqing said he was also happy to see so many members of the CDP reunited.
“How happy it is for me to see Wu Yilong! I haven’t seen him for more than a decade. Even in 1999, I didn’t have the opportunity to meet him very often,” Chen said.
He was also glad to see that almost all members of the Zhejiang branch of the CDP had gathered together at the party for him and Wu.
“Today I got the chance to see almost all the founding CDP members, except for Wang Youcai who is now abroad. I have also got to know some new friends. We had at least 20 or 30 people at the party.”
Wang Youcai was sentenced to 11 years in prison for subversion and was exiled to the United States in 2004.
Chen vowed to continue his fight for democracy in China.
“The struggle for democracy is not an easy job in any country. Therefore, we have to continue our efforts, including our sacrifices,” Chen said.
Wu Yilong, 43, was born in the central China’s Anhui province and graduated from Anhui University.
In 1998, he founded the outspoken “Du Shu Ren” (in English, Book Readers) magazine in Hangzhou and organized a biweekly seminar for the magazine’s readers.
Wu had been summoned by the police several times for his pro-democracy activities, even before the establishment of the CDP.
Original reporting by Qiao Long for RFA’s Mandarin service. Translated by Ping Chen. Written in English by Joshua Lipes.