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China 24 November 2004

Journalist and dissident Liu Jingsheng about to be released

China is reportedly about to release dissident and founder of underground magazine Tansuo (Investigation) Liu Jingsheng, jailed since 28 May 1992, on 27 November. The surprise reduction in sentence appeared to be a conciliatory gesture towards the international community, said Human Rights in China.

Reporters Without Borders called for Liu’s full civil and political rights to be restored and repeated its appeal for the release of all China’s jailed journalists, Internet-users and cyberdissidents.

Coming after the announcement of a 2005 release for journalist Wu Shishen, the planned release of Liu appears to be a fresh indication of Wen Jiabao government’s desire to ease international pressure on China over its imprisoned dissidents.

Liu Jingsheng was sponsored by around a dozen European media and his name was on the list of prisoners the European Union had been seeking to win freedom for.

Liu’s release on 27 November would come two and a half years before the end of his sentence. He was involved in both the Democracy Wall movement in 1979, alongside Wei Jingsheng, and the 1989 Beijing Spring. He constantly campaigned for freedom of expression and Chinese workers’ rights.

He is being held at the Banbuqiao detention centre in Beijing. In May 2000, July 2001 and September 2002, his sentence was progressively reduced to one year and eight months for "good behaviour" and for "expressing regret."

He was not allowed any visitors during his first two years in prison. His wife was allowed to see him once a month from 1994. He was put in solitary confinement for several months in 1996 for "disobeying prison rules." He had protested against conditions in the jail.

In 2000, his health was officially said to be "normal," but the Hongkong-based trade union magazine China Labour Bulletin said he had stomach problems and high blood pressure. He has reportedly lost almost all his teeth.

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