A leading Chinese dissident was freed from prison today.
Wang Xiaoning (right) served 10 years at the Beijing Municipal No. 2 Prison on conviction of “inciting subversion of state power” and remains subject to two years of post-release deprivation of political rights, Human Rights in China reports:
Wang’s case is one of several that resulted from Yahoo! Holdings (Hong Kong) Ltd. providing information about its users to Chinese police. Other cases include Shi Tao, a journalist sentenced to 10 years for “illegally providing state secrets overseas,” Li Zhi, a dissident from Sichuan sentenced to eight years, and Jiang Lijun, a rights activist from Liaoning sentenced to four years, both for “inciting subversion of state power.”
Wang was accused of “attacking and libeling China’s current political system and social system” by disseminating articles “opposing the leadership of Communist Party of China and the Four Cardinal Principles,” writing and editing political commentaries and then distributing them using Yahoo!, publicizing the formation of a political party, and publishing articles in electronic publications overseas.
Wang’s case undermines the authorities’ claim that China enjoys genuine rule of law, say rights advocates.
“That Wang Xiaoning could be deprived of his freedom for a decade on charges of ‘inciting subversion,’ is an unambiguous example of how Chinese authorities misuse laws designed to protect national security in an effort to protect its monopoly on power from being subjected to criticism,” said Joshua Rosenzweig, a Hong Kong-based human rights researcher.
“The Chinese society Wang re-enters enjoys more space for critical voices than it did a decade ago, but those who express themselves politically continue to risk crossing that invisible line that separates ‘acceptable’ criticism from ‘incitement.’ ”
Wang Xiaoning’s wife Yu Ling said in a phone interview that the Beijing No. 2 Prison told her of his release Friday morning and that she should meet him at the prison gate.
[…] Rights groups said that passages from writings cited at his trial in 2003 included: “Without a multiparty system, free elections and separation of powers, any political reform is fraudulent.” Others called China an “authoritarian dictatorship,” and complained of continuing widespread corruption, poverty and workers exploitation.
A lawsuit Wang and others filed in the United States showed that Yahoo’s wholly owned subsidiary based in Hong Kong gave police information linking Wang to his anonymous e-mails and other political writings he posted online.
As HRIC notes: During Wang’s detention at the Beijing Municipal Bureau of State Security Detention Center, the police made violent, though unsuccessful, attempts to extract a confession from him. Wang was also subjected to various abuses in prison.
The Beijing Municipal No. 1 Intermediate People’s Court convicted Wang in September 2003. Wang’s ten-year prison sentence is among the heaviest given to those convicted of “inciting subversion to state power.” (In December 2009, Liu Xiaobo who would become the 2010 Nobel Peace Prize laureate, was sentenced to 11 years, and in March 2011, democracy activist Liu Xianbin was sentenced to ten years.)
Wang’s life in prison is the subject of an essay by fellow inmate and dissident He Depu, who was released in January 2011 after serving eight years also on conviction of “inciting subversion of state power.”
HRIC and China Digital Times are supported by the National Endowment for Democracy, the Washington-based democracy assistance group.