Laogai Research Foundation

December, 1995 Newsletter

Wei Jingsheng
"A True Symbol of the Oppressed in China"

In December, 1995, China’s most famous dissident, Wei Jingsheng was sentenced to fourteen years in prison. When the People’s Republic of China (PRC) made its announcement, protests were heard around the world but to no avail. Wei’s appeal was soon denied, and he again faces the possibility of spending a large part of his adult life in a Chinese prison.

Wei first became well-known when he posted an article on Beijing’s Democracy Wall in 1978, a wall that came to represent the Chinese people’s need for an open discussion about their country’s politics. Called the "Fifth Modernization- Democracy", Wei’s article called for the Chinese people’s right to participate in China’s political process. No one had dared challenge so directly the PRC’s authority, an authority that claimed to represent the people’s interest. After posting several more articles that greatly angered the PRC, the government arrested Wei on March 29, 1979. He was sentenced to fifteen years in prison.

From 1979 to 1981, Wei was held in solitary confinement in the infamous Banbuqiao Detention Center in Beijing. From there, he was transferred to Beijing Number 1 Prison where he was again held in solitary confinement for almost two years. During this time, his health began to deteriorate. He developed a heart condition, lost several teeth and contracted hepatitis. To protest his conditions, Wei embarked on several hunger strikes.

In 1984, he was sent to a forced labor camp in Qinghai province. "They tried to find a labor camp which was an altitude of above 3,500 meters, because in general, people with heart conditions don’t survive this kind of expedition," he later wrote. He was then sent to yet another camp- Nanpu New Life Salt Works, one of the largest forced labor camps in China. He continued to protest his conditions, staging a number of hunger strikes in his two by two and a half meter cell.

In September 1993, just nine days before the International Olympic Committee was to vote on Beijing’s bid for the games, the PRC released Wei on probation. He immediately began to publicly call out for reform and democracy in the PRC. He met wit activists from the 1989 demonstrations to help set up a fund for those families who had lost members during the Tiananmen Square massacre, and also published several editorials in the New York Times and other Western newspapers.

In February 1994, Wei met with John Shattuck, U.S. Assistant Secretary of State to discuss human rights abuses in China. This meeting infuriated the PRC and led to Wei’s detention on April 1. On December 13, he was sentenced to another fourteen years in prison.

When Harry Wu learned of Wei’s sentence, he released the following statement at a press conference in Washington, D.C. on November 28, 1995.

"This is the most flagrant example to date of how desperate the leadership in Beijing is to silence its critics. For fifteen years, Wei languished in the Laogai, often in solitary confinement. When he was released in the misguided hope it would help China win the privilege of hosting the Olympic Games, Wei spoke out clearly, forcefully, and without fear about the need for democracy in China.

He was watched constantly by the police. His calls were monitored and his contracts harassed. The Chinese government realized again that Wei Jingsheng was an unbroken man of singular determination.

Wei Jingsheng is a giant of a man. He has a spirit unmatched by anyone in recent history. He is a true symbol of the oppressed in China."

Appeal for Wei Jingsheng

Please send telegrams, faxes, or airmail letter in Chinese or En-glish to the leaders of China, ask-ing for Wei Jingsheng’s release.

LI Peng Zongli
Salutation: Your Excellency
9 Xihuangchenggenbeijie
Beijingshi 100032
People’s Republic of China
Faxes: +8610 512 5810 (via Ministry of Foreign Affairs)

XIAO Yang Buzhang
Salutation: Your Excellency
Beijingshi 100016
People’s Republic of China
Faxes: +8610 467 7351


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