China: Two journalists released; health concerns for remaining prisoners

English PEN welcomes the recent release of writers Yang Zili and Zhang Honghai, on completing their eight-year prison sentence. They were sentenced on ‘subversion’ charges together with writers Xu Wei and Jin Haike, who are serving a ten-year sentence.

According to our information, on 12 March 2009 Yang Zili and Zhang Honghai were released from Prison No. 2, in Beijing, on completion of their sentence. Jin Haike remains held in Prison No. 2, and Xu Wei is detained in a different penitentiary in Yanqing, northwest of Beijing, where he was transferred after developing a mental illness whilst imprisoned.

Xu Wei, Jin Haike, Yang Zili and Zhang Honghai, reporter for Xiaofei Ribao (Consumer Daily), geologist and writer, writer and computer engineer, and freelance writer respectively, were arrested on 13 March 2001 and charged with ‘subversion’ for their participation in the ‘Xin Qingnian Xuehui’ (New Youth Study Group), an informal gathering of individuals concerned with political and economic inequalities who used the internet to circulate articles. On 28 September 2001, the Beijing Intermediate Court initiated legal proceedings against the four focusing on two essays circulated on the internet entitled ‘Be a new citizen, reform China’ and ‘What’s to be done’, which allegedly demonstrated the groups’ intention to “overthrow the Chinese Communist Party’s leadership and the socialist system and subvert the regime of the people’s democratic dictatorship”. No verdict was announced until 28 May 2003, when Xu Wei and Jin Haike were sentenced to ten years in prison, and Yang Zili and Zhang Honghai to eight years, on charges of subversion.  

In February 2008 there were reports that the prisoners were suffering from acute medical problems, and that they were not receiving appropriate medical attention. We are particularly concerned about reports that Xu Wei has developed a mental illness while in prison.

English PEN are calling for Xu Wei and Jin Haike’s immediate and unconditional release in accordance with Article 19 of the United Nations International Covenant of Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), and seek assurances of the writers well-being.

For the previous WiPC alert, see:


Please send appeals:

– Welcoming the release of Yang Zili and Zhang Honghai on completing their prison sentences;
– Calling for the immediate and unconditional release of Xu Wei and Jin Haike in accordance with Article 19 of the ICCPR to which China is a signatory;
– Seeking assurances of the well being of Xu Wei and Jin Haike and guarantees that their basic rights are being respected.

Send appeals to:

His Excellency Hu Jintao
President of the People’s Republic of China
State Council
Beijing 100032
P.R. China

Mr. Meng Jianzhu
Minister of the Public Security
East Chang’an Avenue 14
100741 Beijing
P.R. China

Please copy appeals to the diplomatic representative for China in your country if possible:

Her Excellency Mrs Fu Ying
Embassy of the People’s Republic of China
49-51 Portland Place

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