Hu Shigen

Political activist and dissident writer, Hu Shigen, was first detained in Beijing on 27 June 1992. He was then illegally held for four months before being formally charged on 27 September 1992.

Hu Shigen was part of a large group of prisoners of conscience jointly indicted on ‘counter-revolutionary’ charges. Those detained were members of the China Freedom and Democracy Party (CFDP) and the China Trade Union (CTU) who had been planning 4 June memorial activities in many of China’s major cities. As a founding member of both the CFDP and the CTU, Hu Shigen drafted a number of key documents for both parties and was active in calling for government accountability for the violent suppression of the Democracy Movement in June 1989.

After numerous delays and questionable judicial proceedings, the group’s trial finally started in July 1994 and the verdict was announced in December 1994. Nine of the defendants were sentenced to between three and twenty years in prison, five were found guilty but exempted from criminal punishment as they had already spent two and a half years in detention, and one was sentenced to two years of ‘supervision’, involving restrictions on freedom of movement. Hu Shigen was convicted of ‘organizing and leading a counter-revolutionary group’ and ‘engaging in counter-revolutionary propaganda and incitement’.

As a senior member of the CFDP, Hu received the longest sentence; twenty years imprisonment and a subsequent five-year deprivation of political rights. He reportedy received a seven-month reduction to his sentence in December 2005, having been interviewed by the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture, and in August 2007, Hu Shigen’s sentence was reduced by two years.

The conditions of Hu Shigen’s detention at Beijing No.2 Prison were reportedly very harsh, and his refusal to confess remorse for his political activities has contributed to his poor treatment in prison. There were reports of torture, resulting in a broken and deformed right hand. He also suffered from severe neurasthenia and chronic migraines, as well as liver, heart, stomach and ear problems. Several vertebrae in his back were dislocated, and it was feared that this could lead to paralysis if left untreated. Despite all this, requests for medical parole by his family were ignored by the authorities.

Hu Shigen was released on 26 August 2008, after his original sentence was reduced several times, by a total of 3 years and 9 months, most recently in May 2008. He is reportedly in poor health after many years of ill treatment in jail. 


Hu received an M.A. in Chinese Literature at Beijing University in 1986. He subsequently became a lecturer at the Beijing Language Institute (now Beijing Language and Culture University).

In January 1991, Hu co-founded the China Freedom and Democracy Party (CFDP). He also helped to establish the China Free Trade Union (CFTU) Preparatory Committee in December 1991.

His published writing includes articles for the commemoration of June 4th victims in 1989.

Hu Shigen is an Honorary Member of English, Canadian and Independent Chinese PEN.


Originally posted with the url:

About English PEN staff

This content is published by the English PEN staff.

View all posts by English PEN staff →

2 Comments on “Hu Shigen”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *