Jin Haike (靳海科) and Xu Wei (徐伟) were released from prison on Saturday, March 12, after serving ten years each on the charge of “subversion of state power.” Both published essays on peaceful political reform and helped organize an informal study and discussion group, the “New Youth Society,” on expanding village elections and other democratic reforms. Jin, now 34, was released from the Beijing No. 2 Prison, and Xu, now 37, from Yanqing Prison. Both are subject to two years of deprivation of political rights after their release.
In May 2000, Jin, a geological survey technician and freelance writer, and Xu, who worked as a reporter and editor for the Consumer Daily newspaper, together with three other people formed the New Youth Society. In August 2000, several others joined the group, including one man, Li Yuzhou (李宇宙), who was actually a spy for the . On March 13, 2001, state security officers seized all of the members of the New Youth Society save Li.
In September 2001, Jin and Xu, along with two other group members, Yang Zili (杨子立), a computer engineer, and Zhang Honghai (张宏海), a freelance writer, were tried for “subversion of state power.” The authorities argued that their essays and the society constituted a blueprint to overthrow the Communist Party.
During the trial, Yang defended the group’s actions and said in his defense statement: “The task of liberalizing society in no way implies an intention to subvert state power. When we speak of freedom and liberalization, we believe such changes come about through a process of reform. Can’t the last 20 years of reform and opening up be considered a way of liberalizing China through a reform policy?”
All four were found guilty. They came to be known as the “Four Gentlemen of the New Youth Society.” Yang and Zhang received slightly shorter sentences of eight years each and were released in March 2009.
In 2003, Xu went on a hunger strike to protest his poor treatment in custody. He was later transferred to Yanqing Prison, which houses mentally ill inmates, because the authorities claimed that he had psychological problems.
In 2006, Li, the spy, said in a statement in support of a petition to reopen the case that the primary evidence that the prosecution presented was the work reports he submitted to the State Security Bureau. But the work reports, the statement said, “were simply not sufficient to prove that the men attempted to subvert state power, and that the New Youth Society's activities were completely legal.” Li also wrote that the punishment they received was “excessive” and an “injustice.” Li begged the court to grant early release to the four innocent men.
Jin, whose appendectomy operation was mishandled in prison in 2007, returned to his family’s home in Henan Province to recuperate. Xu expects to return to his hometown in Shandong Province.
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