Two Chinese writers who were jailed for ten years for participating in a private discussion group which got together to talk about political reform and democracy are free following the completion of their sentence.
New agency AP said Xu Wei, a former reporter, and Jin Haike, a writer, were detained in 2001 and convicted of subversion in 2003 after taking part in an informal study group in Beijing that met privately to discuss democratic reforms.
Their fathers said that both were released Saturday.
The harsh sentences given to the men were a sign that China’s intolerance of political dissent remained entrenched despite dramatic moves to reshape and liberalize the country’s economic system.
Friends and supporters had repeatedly sought medical parole for Jin, who underwent a botched appendectomy in prison and suffered abdominal pain and other health problems.
His father, Jin Jiangguo, said his 33-year-old son planned to stay with his family for the next year or so while recovering.
Xu staged several hunger strikes in prison after clashing with prison guards and allegedly suffered mental problems, rights groups have said.
Xu’s father, whose mobile phone disconnected before he could give his full name, said that he only saw his son briefly on Saturday but that he seemed healthy.
Jin, Xu and two other defendants, who became known as the “Four Gentlemen of Beijing,” were convicted of subversion based mainly on a batch of Internet postings that called for political reform.
“This was one of the first cases that involved an allegedly anti-government group organizing around the Internet,” said Joshua Rosenzweig, research manager for the U.S.-based human rights group Dui Hua Foundation. “In a way, it was a sign of things to come because the Internet since then has become the chief virtual space in which political discussions takes place (in China).”
The two other members of the group, Yang Zili and Zhang Honghai, were released in 2009 after completing 8-year prison terms.