Sunday, March 30, 2008

Dozens Still Prisoned for Tiananmen Protests

It's been more than 18 years since the 1989 Tiananmen protest and it's believed that all political prisoners from that event have since been released, exiled, or passed away. However, it is also known that many participants, who are neither students nor intellectuals, were still kept in prison for participating in the more violent acts of the movements, such as arson, beating, or damaging public properties.

They are the hooligans and rioters (暴徒) of the movement. It is difficult to ascertain their motives for the violence. It could range from attempting to protect the demonstrating students, emotional vengeance, or personal. Their fates had not been a public focus in the aftermath of Tiananmen.

In a speech at the Foreign Correspondents' Club of Hong Kong, the human rights activist John Kamm asserted that he now believes "there are somewhere between 60 to 100 people still imprisoned for offences committed during the protests that swept the country between April and June 1989". A year ago, he had estimated the number was between 200 and 300. Some people had been released over the last six months.

John Kamm's speech included a few names and their cases for both the released and still detained. He says:
We know of the existence of these men because Chinese journalists inserted their names in newspapers and other official publications, and dedicated researchers like Mickey Spiegel of Human Rights Watch in New York, Robin Munro now of China Labor Bulletin in Hong Kong, and Joshua Rosenzweig and his Dui Hua researchers in San Francisco found and published their names. It has fallen to me to submit lists of their names to the Chinese government, confident that by doing so their chances of better treatment and early release are improved. Even today, Dui Hua still finds previously unknown names of people detained in the spring 1989 protests. To date, we and other NGOs have found hundreds of such name
China’s June Fourth prisoners are now middle-aged men who have spent their entire adult lives in prison. The protests for which they have been sentenced would, for the most part, today be called “mass incidents.” Most would likely be fined and given relatively short sentences. Those serving sentences for counterrevolution and hooliganism form a special group: these “crimes” were removed from China’s Criminal Law in 1997. They are serving sentences for crimes that no longer exist.

John Kamm and his Dui Hua (Dialog) Foundation calls for China to have an "Olympics amnesty" to release these counterrevolutionaries and hooligans.

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