Jiang Yanyong released after 49 days

Phillip Pan, in a great article in the Washington Post says he was set free yesterday.

A person close to the family said Jiang succeeded in resisting the demands of his jailers and refused to back down during seven weeks of intense indoctrination sessions. The closest he came to expressing regret was a statement in which he conceded that others might have used his letter for their own purposes, but Jiang also wrote that he should not be held responsible for their actions, the person said.

The doctor’s release, which came amid rising international and domestic criticism, represented a remarkable retreat by the most senior leaders of China’s ruling Communist Party, and a victory of personal will for a man who had already challenged this nation’s authoritarian political system and forced it to back down once.

There was no immediate comment from the Chinese government. Jiang was never charged with a crime, and the government had said only that the military was “helping and educating him” because he had violated military discipline.

It’s funny, that when the Western media (and even Western bloggers) write about human rights issues in China, such as the arrest of cyber-dissidents Liu Di and Du Daobin, or of AIDS activist Ma Shiwen, or the supression of information on SARS, there arises a spontaneous chorus of denunciation along the lines of “Why are you meddling in China’s internal affairs?” and “You don’t understand China! Let them do things their own way.” And yet, in each of those examples, the international outcry appeared to play a significant role in helping the decision-makers inthe CCP see the light and ultimately do the right thing. Its almost certainly the case with Dr. Jiang.

When Hua was allowed to visit her husband on June 30, he told her he had been writing the same statement every day for the past month and would not change his view of the Tiananmen massacre, a person close to the family said. Earlier, in a note delivered to his family, Jiang had vowed to continue “seeking truth from facts.”

But on July 7, two officials with the military’s General Logistics Department visited Hua and told her the investigation of her husband was nearing an end, sources close to the family said. The visit came two days after a front-page report about Jiang’s detention was published in The Washington Post and shown on Phoenix Television, a Hong Kong station that enjoys close ties to Beijing and is available in many mainland offices and homes. China’s state media have not reported Jiang’s detention.

So keeping up the decibel level seems to be a more productive strategy than giving the jailers the “space” to be who they are, and room to learn and grow and blah blah blah. Media coverage works; bad press equals tarnished national image equals less business. That was a major lesson from the SARS debacle.

Dr. Jiang now stands as a greater hero than ever. He never gave in to his brainwashersjailers, who graciously and tirelessly worked to “educate” him about what the Tianamen Square Massacre was really about, and it sounds to me like he outsmarted and outmaneuvered them.

During the visit, the military officials described Jiang as politically naive but a good, honest man, indicated he had finally made progress in his thought reports, and showed Hua a seven-page document in Jiang’s handwriting, the sources said.

But Jiang did not disavow his Tiananmen letter in the statement, the sources said. Instead, he acknowledged that his jailers had helped him realize that the Chinese Communist Party in 1989 was “like a patient with complicated colorectal cancer” who faced imminent death without emergency surgery, one person close to the family said.

Jiang, a longtime party member, wrote that surgery might prolong the patient’s life, and he discussed the condition and the consequences of surgery in great detail in the statement. But he never said whether the patient — in this case, the party — deserved to live, and he never condoned the military crackdown, the person said.

“It was a very calculated, measured statement,” the person said. “He was very precise.”

This is a great story, and a classic example of how, when the CCP crosses fundamental lines of human decency, the last thing we should do is coddle them, “understand” them and remain silent.

UPDATE: The NYT’s Joseph Kahn, who like his counterpart Phillip Pan, is just about always right, has a fine piece on the release of Jiang Yanyong, saying upfront that informed sources say the CCP was “apparently bowing to the doctor’s status as a hero in China and to international pressure to free him, people informed about his case said.” Very good article.

The Discussion: 5 Comments

The CCP is definitely sensitive to bad foreign press. And as important as the release of Jiang Yanyong is, I’d love to see more foreign press attention on changing the system that sees so much dissent as just social instability. Like this story at Simon World about limits on public petitioners in Shenzhen. (yes, they’ve got grievances even in the richest part of China.)

July 20, 2004 @ 6:22 pm | Comment

“complicated colorectal cancer”! He’s got guts, and a sense of humour ๐Ÿ™‚

July 20, 2004 @ 7:51 pm | Comment


Thanks for pointing out that the CCP has most fear of the foreign press. A couple of weeks ago when the high powers in Beijing “requested” Martin Lee not to speak with any foreign press, I had a feeling that they do care about the bad publicity they get from around the world. Now we know where the pressure point is to push for changes.

July 21, 2004 @ 12:16 am | Comment

>>>Military and security officials seized him while he was on his way to the U.S. Embassy to apply for a visa

How did I miss this part of the story before? Suddenly his “detention” becomes a tad more explicable.

July 21, 2004 @ 7:29 am | Comment

Andrea, I appreciate your point. Some feel that when China abuses citizens’ human rights we should extend compassion — to the CCP!!! I’ll never understand it. The only thing that works is pressure, and it’s been proven time and again. Jiang, Liu Di, Du Daobin and many others would be in a prison cell right now were it not for the international outcry.

July 22, 2004 @ 10:28 am | Comment

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