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Radio Free Asia: No News of Last Tiananmen Prisoner After Expected Release Date

Monday, October 17, 2016

Radio Free Asia

■ The last prisoner still serving time in a Chinese jail for involvement in the 1989 student-led democracy movement that ended with a bloody military crackdown is incommunicado after reportedly being released on Saturday.

Miao Deshun was to have been released from Beijing's Yanqing Prison on Oct. 15 after being granted an 11-month sentence reduction, a U.S.-based human rights group has said.

The former worker from the northern province of Hebei, which borders Beijing, was handed a suspended death sentence on Aug. 7, 1989 for "arson" after he allegedly threw a basket at a burning tank amid popular resistance to the People's Liberation Army (PLA)'s crackdown on the protests.

Sentenced alongside four colleagues, Miao was just 25 at the time, and never appealed the jail term.

An armored personnel carrier is shown in flames near
Tiananmen Square during unprecedented democracy protests
that were met with a governmetn crackdown that killed an
unknown number of demonstrators, June 4, 1989. AFP
His death sentence was commuted to life imprisonment in 1991 and further reduced in 2012 and 2016, according to the Dui Hua Foundation.

But fellow activists said they had no idea of his whereabouts on Monday.

Beijing-based dissident Zhang Baocheng, who was recently detained for carrying out a memorial event for theJune 4, 1989 massacre, said everyone is trying to find out what has happened to Miao, who is believed to be physically frail and suffering from severe mental health problems.

"Everyone is very concerned about him, because he was locked up in Yanqing Prison, in Beijing, 28 years ago, and there has been a tight blackout on any news of him that whole time," Zhang told RFA.

He said Miao's actions in 1989 should be "respected."

"I think what he did was worthy of support and respect," Zhang said. "And life will be very hard for him when he gets out, we can be sure of that."

"It's going to be very hard for him to get by, so everyone wants to do the best they can to help him out."

Hepatitis B and schizophrenia

According to the Dui Hua Foundation, Miao had refused to admit any wrongdoing, and suffers from hepatitis B and schizophrenia, and had spent time in a ward for sick, elderly and disabled prisoners.

The group cited an official record as saying that a total of 1,602 people were jailed across China for their part in the 1989 protests and subsequent crackdown, which weren't confined to Beijing.

"Many more were held in detention centers for long periods, or sentenced to re-education through labor," the group said in a statement on its website in May.

"The foundation continues to seek information on individuals who were sentenced to death with two-year reprieve who remain unaccounted for," it said.

China has yet to make any official statement regarding Miao's fate.

Reported by Wong Siu-san and Lau Siu-fung for RFA's Cantonese Service, and by Xin Lin for the Mandarin Service. Translated and written in English by Luisetta Mudie.

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