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Big Business must put human rights on the agenda

September 8, 1999

(Includes HRIC letter to Fortune conference participants and list of urgent cases of political imprisonment.)

Two founding board members of Human Rights in China (HRIC) issued an appeal to top executives who will meet in Shanghai at a conference organized by Fortune magazine, calling on them to take action for human rights. The September 27-29 conference entitled, “China: The Next 50 Years,” will gather more than five hundred chief executives, scholars, economists and government officials, including Chinese President Jiang Zemin, who will give the keynote address, and former U.S. Secretary of State Henry Kissinger. The agenda claims to address the salient issues currently facing China and all those doing business there, but it fails to include the problems of human rights that currently pervade China and prevent it from achieving development and acceptance into the global community.

“It is preposterous that a conference on China’s next fifty years neglects discussion of human rights--the very issue that holds the key to China’s future,” said Fang Lizhi, HRIC board member and world-renowned astrophysicist who was a driving force behind China’s 1989 democracy movement. “Organizers claim that the program will ‘focus on business opportunities and challenges, economic issues and the practical realities of doing business in China.’ The failure to recognize that human rights is part and parcel of this discussion defeats the purpose of the conference, the basic interests of multinational business and the progress of China.”

“The executives attending the conference are in the perfect position to raise the issue of China’s human rights situation. It is only a question of good business and conscience,” said Robert L. Bernstein, HRIC board member, former chairman of Random House and founder of Human Rights Watch. “Human rights advocates have asked conference organizers to put human rights on the agenda, but they have been denied. If these executives, which include the leaders of America’s largest media corporations, choose not to speak out, they could be sending out a message they do not intend.”

Since the end of 1998, the Chinese government has been engaged in the ruthless repression of all signs of dissent. This was most recently evidenced in the crackdown on Falun Gong practitioners and the harsh sentencing of China Democracy Party members and other activists to up to 13 years in prison. Such events, which define the environment in which businesses in China must operate, must be addressed in the 1999 Fortune Global Forum. As the People’s Republic of China approaches its 50th anniversary, truth and action must replace silence and evasion to make way for China’s future.



Attachment I: HRIC Letter to Fortune Conference Participants


September 1, 1999

Dear conference participants,

Re: The 1999 Fortune Global Forum, Shanghai, China

After examination of the upcoming Fortune conference, “China: The Next 50 Years,” we understand that you will be discussing very salient issues currently facing China. As China enters its second decade of economic reform, restrictions on basic human rights such as freedom of expression and association continue to hinder China’s development and acceptance into the global community.

In the last two years, the Chinese government has signed two United Nations covenants to uphold human rights, and yet the government continues to repress all perceived forms of dissent. The result is continued violation of human rights which erodes stability and negatively impacts the business environment.

This is a reality that must be addressed in the 1999 Fortune Global Forum. Please take action:




  • Raise questions at the conference, especially of the Chinese speakers. Enclosed is a list of prisoners – name them and ask about their health their prison sentences, and prison visits.
  • Contact us to discuss ways that your business can make a difference.

Adhering to the international standard of human rights will open markets and expand business opportunities. You are the primary lever to nudge the issue of human rights, and improve the lives of millions. As the great British Statesman, Edmund Burke said in 1795, "The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing." Thank you for your consideration.


Robert L. Bernstein
Former Chairman, Random House
Founder, Human Rights Watch
Board Member, Human Rights in China

Fang Lizhi
Professor, Physics Department
University of Arizona
Board Member, Human Rights in China




Attachment II: Cases of Urgent Conern: Compiled by Human Rights in China



China Democracy Party (CDP) Members

Xu Wenli, 55, was arrested on November 30, 1998 for “endangering state security” in connection with his efforts to officially establish the China Democracy Party. On the night he was taken away by the police, officers made an exhaustive search of his home, confiscating a computer, address books and documents related to the opposition party. He was sentenced to 13 years’ imprisonment following a one-day trial on December 21, 1998. A veteran democracy activist, Xu served 12 years in prison following his participation in the Democracy Wall Movement in 1979.

Qin Yongmin, activist and author, was arrested on November 30, 1998 for “endangering state security” and sentenced to 12 years’ imprisonment after his December 17, 1998 trial. Chinese officials claimed that his role in preparing for the establishment of the China Democracy Party “breached the relevant provisions of China’s criminal laws.” Qin served seven years in prison for his participation in the Democracy Wall Movement and three years in Reeducation Through Labor for his participation in drafting the Peace Charter.

Wang Youcai, 32, a former student democracy leader, was detained on November 2, 1998 in connection with his leading role in seeking to officially establish the China Democracy Party (CDP). He was formally charged on November 30, 1998 for “conspiring to subvert the government,” organizing a meeting of party supporters, using e-mail to send party materials abroad, and accepting funds from overseas to buy a computer. He was sentenced to 11 years’ imprisonment after being tried by the Hangzhou Intermediate Court on December 17, 1998. Wang had been detained for 50 days following an attempt to register the CDP in July 1998.

Liu Xianbin, a leading CDP member in Sichuan, was sentenced to 13 years’ imprisonment for subverting state power on August 6, 1999. Liu was unable to find defense counsel as a series of lawyers withdrew from the case following pressure from the authorities. He spoke in his own defense at the Suining Intermediate People’s Court. Liu, who was detained without warrant on July 7, 1999, previously served two years in prison for his participation in the 1989 democracy movement.

She Wanbao, a CDP member, received a 12 year sentence for subversion, on August 5, 1999 following a three-hour trial in Guangyuan, Sichuan. She was taken from his home without warrant on July 7, 1999. She, a 41-year-old former bank official, spent four years in prison for taking part in the 1989 demonstrations.

Zha Jianguo and Gao Hongming, chairmen of the CDP’s Beijing-Tianjin branch were sentenced for subversion on August 2, 1999, receiving prison terms of nine and eight years, respectively. Zha and Gao, who were detained on June 29, 1999 both had collaborated with Xu Wenli, an initiator of the CDP who was sentenced to 13 years in prison last December. Zha is a former manager of a computer design company. In April Gao, a former office administrator, had announced plans to set up an independent labor union with Xu Yonghai, and had also pressed China’s leaders to take responsibility for the “June Fourth Incident.”

Beijing Fifteen

Liu Jingsheng is one of the "Beijing Fifteen", the largest group of labor and democracy activists to be tried since 1989. They were given some of the heaviest sentences handed down to political prisoners in recent years: Hu Shigen, 20 years' imprisonment; Kang Yuchun, 17 years; Wang Guoqi , 11 years; Zhang Chunzu, Chen Wei, Lu Zhigang and Wang Tiancheng each received five-year terms; Rui Chaohuai, three years; and Li Quanli was given two years' supervision, while five others were found guilty and freed. Arrested in 1992, the group spent two years in incommunicado detention until their trial in July 1994, where they were found guilty of various "counterrevolutionary offenses," including plans to drop leaflets on Tiananmen Square using a remote-control toy airplane on the third anniversary of June Fourth. Their trial was postponed twice, in September 1993 at the time of Beijing's bid for the 2000 Olympic Games and in April 1994. When their appeal was rejected in July 1995, they chanted "Long live free trade unions in China" and "Long live democracy" in the court.

Liu Jingsheng himself was charged as a "chief conspirator" for "organizing and leading a counterrevolutionary group" and carrying out "counterrevolutionary propaganda and incitement." One of four accused of plotting the founding of the Preparatory Committee of the Free Labor Union of China, Liu allegedly helped print and distribute 200 copies of the Free Labor Union of China's political charter. He drafted the "counterrevolutionary" handbill "Informational Material on the Preparatory Committee for the Free Labor Union of China," then helped distribute 2,000 copies to factories and mines in Beijing. During April and May 1992, Liu was one of the co-drafters of two handbills, "The Spirit of the June 4 Martyrs," and "An Open Letter," and planned their distribution in Beijing, Shanghai, Wuhan, Chengdu and Shenyang to commemorate the third anniversary of June 4. Liu, a worker and veteran of the Democracy Wall Movement, was also a member of the China Progressive Alliance and a founder of the Liberal Democratic Party, which has been sharply critical of the Chinese Communist Party. He is currently held at Beijing No.2 Prison.

June Fourth Activists

Yu Dongyue is serving a 20 year prison term for defacing the Mao portrait in Tiananmen Square. Yu, a former editor at the Jiyang Daily who refused to acknowledge his guilt or co-operate with authorities, has been savagely beaten and kept in a tiny isolation cell at the Yuanjian Labor Reform Camp in Hunan, bringing on severe mental illness. On May 23, 1989, Yu, together with primary school teacher Xu Zhijian and car factory worker Lu Decheng, threw paint on the portrait of Mao which hangs above Tiananmen Gate. All three were tried for “counter-revolutionary crimes.” Lu, who was originally sentenced to 16 years, was released in March. Xu is serving a life sentence.

Li Hai, 44, a former Beijing student and leader of the 1989 democracy movement, was arrested in 1995 for making public a list of individuals who are serving lengthy prison sentences for their participation in the 1989 demonstrations. He was subsequently sentenced to a nine-year prison term for “prying into and gathering” “high-level state secrets.” Li Hai was also instrumental in distributing humanitarian assistance funds to hundreds of families of June Fourth Massacre victims.

Mongolian Activist

Hada, 41, owner of the Mongolian Studies Bookstore in Hohhot, Inner Mongolia, was sentenced in 1996 to 15 years’ imprisonment for his role as founder and chair of the Southern Mongolian Democratic Alliance (SMDA), a group which called for increased autonomy in Inner Mongolia and respect for the rights and culture of China’s minority peoples. Hada was taken from his home in December 1995 during a crackdown on Inner Mongolian democracy and autonomy activists and was originally held in the Inner Mongolia Public Security detention center under Shelter and Investigation provisions before being formally arrested in March 1996, when he was charged with “conspiring to subvert the government,” “spying,” and “splitting the country.” Hada is currently imprisoned in Inner Mongolia’s No.1 Prison. He was an active participant in the Mongolian student movement of 1981 while a doctoral candidate in the history department of Inner Mongolia Normal University.

Human Rights Monitor

Chen Meng, 37, is serving a 12-year prison sentence in Dongguan, Guangdong Province. He was found guilty of faxing a top-secret document to “organizations outside China’s borders,” thus damaging the “reputation” of the government. This was a list of 49 Chinese nationals or former nationals either barred from entering China or subject to arrest or other measures on their arrival at the border. Chen was tried by the Shenzhen Intermediate People’s Court in a closed proceeding on an unknown date in 1996 and convicted of illegally providing state secrets. The verdict was delivered on April 25, 1997, and some months later, his appeal against his conviction was rejected. Chen has reportedly been held in solitary confinement since he was detained on March 14, 1995, and is said to be suffering from serious liver disease.

Labor Activists

Zhang Shanguang, a Hunan labor activist, was sentenced to 10 years’ imprisonment on December 27, 1998, after a two-hour trial held behind closed doors. He was found guilty of “providing intelligence to institutions outside the borders.” According to the verdict, Zhang had given information to foreign organizations, including a journalist from Radio Free Asia who had interviewed him about a demonstration organized by farmers and workers in Hunan Province. However, Zhang attempt at establishing the Association to Protect the Rights and Interests of Laid-Off Workers in Xupu County is considered a main reason for the harsh sentence. He was initially detained on July 21, 1998 and formally arrested on August 28, 1998.

Yue Tianxiang, a labor rights activist, was sentenced to 10 years’ imprisonment in July 1999 for “subversion.” Yue, who was detained on January 11 and formally charged on January 26, 1999, formed the China Labor Rights Observer in Gansu Province to protect the rights of laid-off workers. Guo Xinming and Wang Fengshan, who worked with Yue to establish the China Labor Rights Observer, and were apprehended with him, were each sentenced to two years in prison, also for subversion.

Li Bifeng, 34, a labor activist and former tax department employee, was found guilty of "fraud" by the Mianyang People's Court of Sichuan in late August 1998. After a one-day trial that lacked all due process, Li was sentenced to seven years' imprisonment. Li was detained in March 1998 and charged one month later. A representative of the unofficial Chinese Conscience and Care Action organization, he released information about laid-off workers' protests and living conditions. In December 1997, Li wrote to the Central Committee of the Chinese Communist Party to urge them to "free all political prisoners... and end one-party rule." He denounced the policy of sending dissidents into exile and insisted that national elections should be held. He spent five years in prison for his involvement in the 1989 pro-democracy movement.

Tibetan Religious Leader

Chadrel Rinpoche, 58, the former abbot of Tashilhumpo monastery and head of the official search team for the reincarnation of the tenth Panchen Lama, was sentenced in April 1997 to six years for allegedly “conspiring to split the country,” “colluding with separatist forces abroad,” “seriously jeopardizing the national unification and unity of ethnic groups,” and “leaking state secrets.” Chadrel Rinpoche is reportedly detained in a secret compound in Changdong No.3 Prison, Dazu County, Sichuan Province, where he is denied all outside contacts and is restricted to his cell.

Political Reformer

Fang Jue, 44, a former government official turned businessman, was sentenced to four years’ imprisonment on June 10, 1999 for “embezzlement” and “illegal business practices,” charges that Fang denounced as a government “frame-up.” During his four-hour trial on April 6, 1999, Fang was not allowed to present his statement. Fang submitted an appeal with the Beijing Supreme Court, but the court announced on July 21, 1999 that the original sentence would be upheld. Initially detained in July 1998 and held in incommunicado detention, Fang Jue was the primary drafter of “China Needs a New Transformation,” a platform for political reform that was issued in November 1997.

Freedom of Expression Advocates

Liu Xianli of Anhui was sentenced to four years’ imprisonment for subversion on May 10, 1999, after attempting to interview China’s prominent dissidents for a book on their activities. Liu was detained in March 1998 and tried in November 1998.

Wei Hongyang was sentenced to five years in prison and fined 30,000 yuan by a court in southern Guangdong province in early June 1999 for publishing 38,000 "illegal political publications." The printer, Deng Zhifei, was sentenced to four years and fined 40,000 yuan. The sentences, which came amid the pre-June Fourth security clampdown, was to serve as a warning to others not to undertake such work, according to an official quoted by the local official paper.

Grass-roots Democracy Activist

Zhao Changqing, 28, was sentenced in early September 1998 by the Hanzhong Intermediate Court (Shaanxi) to a three-year prison term. At the time of sentencing, the date and length of his sentence, his place of detention, as well as the charges against him were all kept secret. Zhao was detained after he tried to run in local legislative elections. Although he had gathered enough supporting signatures, he was told that only CCP cadres at or above the deputy director rank were eligible. Zhao was detained for 6 months following his involvement in the 1989 pro-democracy movement.

Human Rights Activist

Fan Yiping, 43, was fined 10,000 yuan and sentenced to three years’ imprisonment by the Guangzhou Intermediate People’s Court on July 21, 1998. During the trial, which began on July 13, 1998, Fan pleaded not guilty to the charge of illegally organizing Wang Xizhe’s flight to Hong Kong in October 1996. The trial was riddled with discrepancies including forced witness testimony, absent witnesses and insufficient notification. A company manager, Fan was detained in March, and formally arrested in May 1998. During the Democracy Wall movement Fan headed the unofficial publication Voice of the People.

Cyber Prisoner

Lin Hai, a 30-year-old computer company owner in Shanghai, was sentenced to two years’ imprisonment for subversion on January 20, 1999. He was detained on March 25, 1998, after he allegedly provided Chinese e-mail addresses to the U.S.-based on-line magazine Dacankao, a.k.a. VIP Reference. VIP Reference, which is described by prosecutors as a “hostile foreign publication,” compiles and distributes articles on dissident activities, human rights and other issues to more than 200,000 e-mail addresses in China. Lin Hai’s trial was held on December 4, 1998, behind closed doors because of the “state secrets” allegedly involved in his case.


Sheng Liangqing, 35, a former public prosecutor in Anhui, was sentenced in March 1998 to two years of Reeducation Through Labor for “disturbing social order.” Shen had issued a number of open letters to the government and published critical essays abroad, which led to repeated detentions. In January 1997 he had been retroactively sentenced to 17 months’ imprisonment for his role in drafting, printing and distributing “subversive” pamphlets in Hefei in 1991.

Wang Tingjin, 43, a math teacher in Anhui, was sentenced in April 1998 to two years of Reeducation Through Labor for "disturbing social order." In February he spent one month in detention after meeting with New York-based dissident Wang Bingzhang, on a clandestine trip to China. Wang Tingjin served two years in prison for his involvement in the Democracy Wall Movement of the late 70s.

Yang Qinheng, 44, was arrested in late February 1998 and sentenced to three years' of Reeducation Through Labor in April 1998. Active in petition campaigns, Yang called for the reassessment of the official verdict on the Tiananmen Square Massacre and the release of political prisoners. He read on Radio Free Asia an open letter that condemned China's policy on unemployment and argued for the right to form free trade unions. Yang, an activist from the Democracy Wall Movement, served a two-year term for "counter-revolutionary propaganda" in 1983 and a three-year Reeducation term for staging a demonstration for the release of dissident Zhang Xianliang in 1994.


Jiang Qisheng, June Fourth victims advocate, was detained on May 18, 1999 following his leading role in planning June Fourth anniversary activities. On April 15, 1999 Jiang and a group of 15 activists issued an open letter calling for all the people of China to commemorate those killed in the 1989 massacre. On May 17, Jiang issued a one-man appeal on behalf of Cao Jiahe, the Dongfang magazine editor who was arbitrarily detained and tortured for collecting signatures to mark the June Fourth anniversary. On July 16, two Beijing police officers verbally informed his wife Zhang Hong that Jiang Qisheng had been formally arrested several days earlier on the charge of "propagating and instigating subversion.” However, the officers would not give the exact time of arrest and refused to provide Zhang Hong with the arrest notice. Jiang’s trial is imminent, though no date has been announced.

Liao Shihua, a prominent labor activist was detained on June 12, 1999 accused of "inciting the masses to attack an organ of government." Liao had been missing since June 7, 1999 when he joined over 100 laid-off workers demonstrating in front of Hunan provincial government headquarters, demanding a resolution to the area’s unemployment problems. After addressing the crowd with a speech on workers’ rights, Liao was led away by a suspicious figure. A former worker in the Changsha Auto Electronics Factory, Liao organized a mass protest of corruption within the factory in 1998. Liao was also active in the 1989 democracy movement.

Tong Shidong, an assistant professor of Hunan University’s Physics Department, was officially arrested on June 15, 1999 on the charge of “conspiring to subvert the government.” Taken from his home on June 8, 1999 by the political section of the Public Security Bureau of Changsha City, Hunan Province, Tong is now being held at the Changsha City Detention Center. On November 19, 1998, Tong and Peng Yuchang, a retired lecturer, declared the formation of the Hunan University’s preparatory committee of the China Democracy Party, the first among universities. Tong was responsible for drafting the chapter’s documents to apply for official registration.

Hua Di, 64, a missile expert affiliated with Stanford University, has been charged with “revealing state secrets,” but his trial has been repeatedly postponed due to lack of evidence. Hua, who sought political exile in the United States following the 1989 crackdown and settled in California, was arrested in January 1999 while visiting his family in Beijing. Hua is suffering from a rare form of male breast cancer. His family has appealed to the Beijing People’s Intermediate Court for Hua’s release on medical parole, but has received no response.


Han Lifa, a member of the CDP, has been sentenced to two additional years of Reeducation Through Labor. Han was originally sentenced to nine months of “shelter for re-education” in October 1998 in connection with his role in establishing the CDP Shanghai Forming Committee. The extension of Han’s detention, imposed for his defiance of his original sentence, was discovered only when family members arrived at his detention center to pick him up on his July 22, 1999 release date. Cai Guihua, a fellow CDP member who organized weekly study groups on human rights in Shanghai with Han, has also been given an extended Reeducation Through Labor term. News of the extension came a week after his scheduled release in late July 1999, but police did not say how much longer Cai would be incarcerated. Cai and Han were both picked up for allegedly patronizing prostitutes and each sentenced to nine months’ “shelter for re-education” in late October 1998.

Ngawang Sangdrol, 22, a nun from Garu nunnery, has had her sentence increased by four years for leading the May 1998 prisoner protests in Drapchi Prison. This is the third time that her prison term has been extended since her original sentence to three years’ imprisonment in 1992 for taking part in a peaceful pro-independence demonstration in Lhasa. In October 1993, she was sentenced to an additional six years for composing and recording pro-independence songs in prison, and in July 1996 her sentenced was increased again by eight years for minor acts of disobedience. Ngawang Sangdrol is now serving a 21 year sentence, the longest imposed on any female political prisoner in Tibet.



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