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Chinese Activist Finally Released

Long-term political prisoner and democracy activist Hu Shigen was released after serving sixteen years of a twenty-year sentence. The United States welcomes his release. Executive director of Human Rights in China Sharon Hom said, "It is tragic that Hu had to suffer so many years of abuse, serious health problems, and harsh conditions."

Hu was detained in May 1992 but wasn't sentenced until December 1994 for allegedly "carrying out counterrevolutionary propaganda and incitement" and "organizing a counterrevolutionary group." These two crimes were eliminated from the law in 1997, but Hu remained in prison for another eleven years.

Hu helped plan activities to commemorate the anniversary of the 1989 Tiananmen Square massacre. Hundreds and possibly thousands of people died on June 4th, 1989, when the army moved in to clear out student-led demonstrators who were calling for democracy and an end to government corruption. Hu went on to establish the China Freedom and Democracy Party and the Preparatory Committee of the Free Labor Union of China in 1991.

Despite his release from prison, Hu reportedly remains subject to a five-year deprivation of his political rights, including his right to free speech, association, and assembly.

Even as Hu Shigen has regained some of his freedoms, many other Chinese dissidents continue to be persecuted by government authorities. A case in point is Ye Guozhu, a housing rights activist. Ye is being held in police custody after completing a four-year prison sentence in connection with his attempts to draw public attention to forced evictions in Beijing due to Olympics-related construction. According to the rights group Amnesty International, police beat Ye with electroshock batons before his trial and was subjected to further beatings in prison.

The United States is committed to defending human rights across the globe, including in China. "America," said President George Bush, "always stands with those seeking freedom -- and never hesitates to shine the light of conscience on abuses of human rights." The activities of such activists and human rights defenders as Hu Shingen and Ye Guozhu, who work within China's legal system to protect the rights of their fellow citizens, support China's efforts to develop and institute the rule of law and should be applauded, not suppressed or punished.