Chen Ziming completes 13-year prison sentence

New York, October 17, 2002–The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) welcomes the release from house arrest of Chen Ziming, a recipient of CPJ’s 1991 International Press Freedom Award, but remains concerned that he has not been given total freedom.

On October 10, the 50-year-old formally completed a 13-year sentence for his role in the 1989 pro-democracy demonstrations. During the last week, he has been allowed to move about freely, but he is still under tight surveillance, and security officers tail him when he leaves his home.

Together with Wang Juntao, 43, Chen ran a progressive think tank called the Beijing Social and Economic Sciences Research Institute and published Economics Weekly, a journal that focused on the social consequences of China’s economic reforms. Following the June 4, 1989, military crackdown on pro-democracy demonstrations in Beijing, the government labeled Chen and Wang as the “black hands” behind the movement. Within days of the massacre, authorities issued a list of banned books that included anything written by Wang Juntao and Chen Ziming.

On February 12, 1991, Wang and Chen were each sentenced to 13 years in prison for “counterrevolutionary” activities. In November 1991, CPJ honored Chen and Wang with an International Press Freedom Award to recognize their critical role in developing an independent media in China.

Chen was released from prison on medical parole in 1994 in an apparent effort by Beijing to discourage the U.S. government from withdrawing China’s Most Favored Nation trading status because of human rights concerns. He was imprisoned again the following year after he signed a petition calling for the release of political prisoners. Released again in 1996 on medical parole, Chen has been under strict house arrest. He has suffered from cancer, heart disease, and hepatitis.

Wang Juntao, who was also released on medical parole for heart problems and hepatitis in 1994 and is currently studying at Columbia University in New York, welcomed Chen’s release. “Chen Ziming is one of China’s most outstanding intellectuals who has withstood a difficult test and paid a heavy personal price,” Wang said. “If China cannot tolerate a reasonable, responsible, legitimate and constructive representative of the opposition like Chen Ziming, it will be very difficult for the country to complete its arduous transformation.” Wang’s sentence will formally expire on October 20.