Human Rights in China (HRIC) has learned that Shanghai authorities have imposed special procedures that will delay the return home of jailed lawyer Zheng Enchong. Zheng is scheduled for release on June 5 after serving a three-year prison term on charges of illegally providing state secrets overseas. His case has sparked intense overseas and domestic media interest.
Sources in China told HRIC that on May 30, Zheng’s wife, Jiang Meili, received a letter from Zheng in which he laid out special arrangements for his release. According to the text of the letter, Zheng states that the Party branch secretaries of the North Station and Tianshan districts, along with a social worker and household registration police officer, came to the prison to talk with Zheng and seek his cooperation on the following arrangements: 1) On June 5, a police vehicle would bring him to the North Station District police station for a procedure where his sentence of deprivation of political rights would be executed, along with inspection of his release papers and arrangements “guaranteeing his personal safety.” 2) On the morning of June 6, as arranged by the Tianshan district Party branch secretary, Zheng would be taken to the Ziyunlu Tianshan police station for the processing of his household registration and identification card. Zheng wrote Jiang that she should wait for further notification regarding where she should meet him.
Sources told HRIC that on May 23, Jiang Meili was visited by the same officials, who stated their plans to take temporary custody of Zheng Enchong upon his release from prison. However, at that time, Jiang disagreed with the arrangements, and she believes it was her refusal that prompted the subsequent visit to Zheng in prison. Jiang has been wary of official interference following an incident in mid-May in which unidentified persons apparently connected with the police broke into her home (see HRIC’s press release on May 18).
Jiang wrote a reply to Zheng stating that she and other family members would appear at the prison on the morning of June 5 to bring him home, and that it was his choice whether to go with his family or submit to the arrangements proposed by the authorities.
The arrangements for Zheng’s release contrast sharply with the recent release of tycoon Zhou Zhengyi (also known as Chau Ching-ngai), who was imprisoned for three years for fraud and stock manipulation. Zhou had been at the center of a lawsuit in which Zheng Enchong was advising householders displaced by a massive redevelopment scheme, who were alleging corrupt collusion between Zhou’s company and local officials. According to press reports, on the morning of his scheduled release date, May 26, Zhou emerged unaccompanied from Tilanqiao Prison and left in a private car that took him directly to his luxury villa in Shanghai’s western suburbs.
HRIC protests the discriminatory release conditions imposed on Zheng Enchong that will delay his reunification with his family. These conditions appear especially arbitrary when compared to the treatment of Zhou Zhengyi, a primary target of Zheng Enchong’s efforts to secure justice for evicted Shanghai residents.