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Letter from a journalist in prison

July 25, 2001

To: The Honorable Mary Robinson, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights

Your Excellency,

My name is Gao Qinrong. I am a member of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) and a former correspondent of Shanxi Youth Daily. I worked as a correspondent for the Journalist Observer magazine of Xinhua News Agency, Shanxi Branch, in 1996. I worked quite hard there and had a good reputation.

I received some letters from ordinary citizens in Yuncheng City, Shanxi Province at the end of 1997 while I was working in Shanxi. In the letters, they informed me about a fake irrigation project in that city. “The project wasted a huge amount of state funds,” the letters said. Wanting to find out more, I went to Yuncheng to investigate the project myself. After completing my investigation, I wrote a report on the sham Yuncheng irrigation project for the Inner-Circle Reference News of the People’s Daily, and the CCP Central Discipline Inspection Committee.

In my report, I disclosed the corruption among local officials involved in the sham irrigation project. I wrote a detailed story on how 280 million yuan had been wasted and embezzled by local officials. Soon after my report was published in Inner-Circle Reference News, China Youth Daily, Farmers Daily, China News Agency and CCTV all issued reports on the same matter. This angered Hu Fuguo, the former Party Secretary of Shanxi Province, and Huang Youquan, chief of Yuncheng District and the main person responsible for this sham project.

They ordered the police in Yuncheng to have me illegally arrested on December 4, 1998, and sentenced me to 13 years in prison. They abused their power to fabricate trumped-up charges against me. Some time ago, I had borrowed some money from the management of a hotel, and wrote a receipt for it. This was nothing to do with government, but they presented it to the court as a case of embezzlement. I had also lent some money to friends, and later they returned the money to me. This was also purely a civil case, but they turned it into bribery. Some people were caught by police with prostitutes one night. They claimed I was the go-between, and had introduced the prostitutes to the men. Furthermore, although it was written in the indictment that there was “no information from witnesses,” they claimed that the evidence was clear, and sentenced me to 13 years imprisonment.

Issue No. 19 of the magazine Democracy and Law called on society to help me last year. Southern Weekend, China Youth Daily, China Social Guidance Daily, Legal Daily, Guangming Daily, China Business Times, Huashan Daily, Changjiang Daily, Gongming Magazine and Taiyuan Daily all wrote articles on my case and spoke out against the injustice. Publications on the Internet, the Associated Press and Agence France-Presse all reported on my case, and the Committee to Protect Journalists sent messages to Jiang Zemin, asking him to release me immediately. God knows whether Jiang Zemin received the appeal or not. Nothing has happened in my case so far.

More than 100 people from Hubei Province and many people from different parts of the country have written me letters to express their concern for me. They also wrote to the CCP Central Committee and the relevant government departments to ask them to punish those involved in corruption and to release me. But there has been no response.

Not long ago, the magazine Democracy and Law reported that a motion seeking justice in my case had been put forward by Yang Weiguang, Gao Zhanxiang and five other members of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Committee (CPPCC) at the two parliamentary conferences held at the beginning of this year. At the meeting, they urged the Central Discipline Commission and the Supreme People’s Court to re-open my case. They believed that this case was purely a case of revenge taken by the local leaders against me....

What they said in their motion was to the point and correct. But half a year has passed and nothing has happened. The relevant departments have turned a deaf ear. What I did was for the people. Why should I be treated so badly? By contrast, the corrupt officials responsible are still enjoying a happy life and have been promoted to higher positions. Huang Youquan has now been promoted to the position of District Party Secretary.

Why did this happen? I am in prison and have appealed many times for help from the higher Party and government organs.... My wife and relatives have done a great deal to seek help from society.... My wife is facing dismissal from her work unit....

I feel very cold in my heart. I cannot help thinking of the evil tradition in Chinese history, of corrupt leaders helping each other to dismiss cases between officials and the ordinary people. This is another kind of corruption. It is the exchange of power for money! Huang Youquan used to boast he had a close relationship with a deputy director of the CCP General Office. Now this deputy director is working with [Vice-President] Hu Jintao.... I believe that the fact that all our appeals for help have been to no avail means that there must be someone important supporting the corrupt officials.

Your Excellency, I had not wished to disclose this and have my case linked with the sensitive “human rights” issue. But what choice do I have now? I have to ask you for help. Corruption is hated the world over. I think there is something even worse, and that is the lack of a system for supervision over the government. If laws become slaves to power, there will be no justice at all. People will suffer from this, and the country’s position will be weakened.

I appeal to you, Your Excellency, to send some people to investigate my case, for the sake of world peace and the stability and the development of China.

Yours sincerely,
Gao Qinrong

September 8, 2001

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