Li Hai’s List

August 16, 2019

A Note on the Editions of the 1994 HRIC / HRW Report That Features Li Hai’s List

The 1994 HRIC / HRW Report “The Price of Obscurity in China: Revelations About Prisoners Arrested After June 4, 1989” was a direct result of Li Hai’s research over three years between 1991 and 1994. Our video interview with Li Hai focused on how he compiled the list of 522 “June 4th Rioters” – the very subject of the 1994 HRIC/HRW report.

During the course of our research for the interview, we found a PDF version of the report on Human Rights in China’s website, but page 13 – 36 of it were missing. We found an “Index” at the end of the report on pages 52 – 62 that provides 522 names in Pinyin, and in Pinyin only. We set out to research and match the 522 Pinyin names with real names in Chinese characters, but soon it became clear that we would not be able to identify them all.

At that point, it occurred to us that we should ask Human Rights Watch to see if they have a complete version of the report. Yes, they do. They have a PDF version of what seems to be the original report. Page 14-35 of the report lists the name (Chinese characters and Pinyin), the age, the crime, the sentence, the occupation (incomplete) of the 522 prisoners held in four locations.  

Thanks Human Rights Watch! We are extremely pleased to have found the original report with the list intact and used it in this interview production.

We have posted the two editions for your reference:

HRIC version

HRW version

China Change

Full Transcription


In the spring of 1989, Li Hai was a graduate student of philosophy at Peking University. He was 35 years old, enjoying the best time of his life. He’d spent his adolescence in the 1970s as a laborer in a brickyard. During the 1980s, after graduating from Nanjing University, he taught Marxism at a college in Beijing where his older and conservative colleagues deemed him unfit for teaching. At Peking University, he burrowed deep in his studies, and was memorizing an English dictionary with plans to study in the United States.

On April 15, 1989, the reformer and deposed General Secretary of the Chinese Communist Party Hu Yaobang died. That day, Li Hai walked past a portrait of Hu Yaobang on campus, and unexpectedly burst into tears. He felt echoes of himself in Hu’s fate.

He was among the first students taking to the streets to remember Hu Yaobang. Later, he became the outreach liaison for the newly-formed student organizing body on campus. His job was to receive visitors, visit other campuses, and field questions from journalists.

At midnight on June 3, he found himself in Xi Dan, west of Tiananmen Square. The avenue leading to the square had been cleared by advancing soldiers, with intermittent gunshots in the air and fires burning here and there. He ran to a nearby hospital, then to another, and another; he counted 20 dead bodies and many wounded. At around six in the morning, he returned to school.

He wasn’t arrested after the Massacre, and resumed classes in the fall. The following April, he traveled to 22 cities across China over 30 days, connecting with friends, with a plan to commemorate the first anniversary of the Massacre. He was arrested upon returning Beijing. At Haidian Detention Center, he suffered violence, hunger, and severe scabies. At the end of 1990, the US National Security Advisor Brent Scowcroft visited China. As a concession from China, 45 students were released and Li Hai was one of them.

Li Hai

I was held for seven months, 209 days. I lost 30 jin. I was about 135 jin when I went in, and 103 jin when I came out. I was nothing but skin and bones when I was released. All my muscles were gone. My legs were just two sticks wrapped by skin. No muscles. When I walked, I could only make tiny steps, because without muscles, you can’t step out. You can’t.

When I was at Haidian Detention Center, there was an inmate named Yan Ying in the same cell. He had picked up and made off with seven bullets, and somebody turned him in. He was sentenced to two years in prison. He served out his sentence in the detention center without being transferred to a prison. After two years, he was released. After I was released, I felt a sense of guilt, and a responsibility, for those ordinary people who were detained because of June 4.  

As for students, Wang Dan’s sentence of four years was the heaviest. The rest were for two or three years. The authorities did their utmost to give the outside world the impression that they had finished dealing with the June 4th incident: Look, we’ve released everyone who should be released, and we’ve finished handling the students.

But that wasn’t the case. What was more tragic were those ordinary people, who were labeled rioters at the time, because these people were like the guy we were just talking about. Some picked up a schoolbag, for example, but were sentenced to seven years, or ten years, for robbery. The sentences were all very heavy. There were also some who were executed.  I heard that there were two batches of people who were executed.

These ordinary people were hit harder than us the students. Not only harder, but no one knew of their situation because the authorities intentionally covered it up. The circumstances of these people were very sad, because they had no network, and no information and communication channels. Each of them was isolated and miserable. Later, in my investigation, I often saw the same circumstances: the man of the family was in prison; the wife raised their child alone struggling under difficult conditions. Sometimes there was also the mother-in-law in the home. All of these people were on the lower rung of society.

I wanted to find them. I talked to those students that I had contact with at that time. I asked them to tell me any such cases they knew. I said I wanted to investigate this matter. Later they came back with feedback. For example, someone told me: I know of a person whose sentence was a couple of years, and he should be out by now, or maybe he’ll be released soon. Quite a few people provided tips, and I was able to find these prisoners through this route. These prisoners were themselves mindful people. The authorities handled these prisoners in a particular way; they detained them all together in one place. For example, those in Beijing with heavy sentences were all incarcerated in Beijing’s No. 2 Prison. This group of more than 100 people was called the “rioters’ brigade,” and they had received sentences of 10 years, 15 years, life imprisonment, or suspended death sentences. 

Those with sentences less than 10 years were imprisoned in Tianjin, in three different prisons. There was a unit in each prison, specifically called the “rioters’ brigade,” which were more than 100 people, perhaps 120 or so. There were also some in Beijing No. 1 Prison.  Beijing No. 1 Prison probably had a dozen or so prisoners with lesser sentences. For example, there was Wu Xuecan, who was incarcerated in Beijing No. 1.  Everyone knew when he was released from prison, and I asked around to find out his contact information. I located him. He had been an editor at the People’s Daily. He wrote down the names of everyone in “the rioters’ brigade” in Beijing No. 1. Prison. There were about a dozen or more. 

I used the same method to find out the June 4th prisoners at Tianjin and Beijing No. 2 prison.  For each unit, I could usually find two or three such lists. When people were released, one after the other, I’d compare the lists that each of them gave me. Some were incomplete, but comparing them against each other, I managed to come up with a full list of names.  This project went very smoothly. 

Before that, you know that I was into meditation. Before I got into Peking University in 1988, I started to meditate. But I wasn’t a Buddhist. However, in circumstances like those in 1989, I began to look for a spiritual support because it was a very extreme situation, and I was very angry inside. So when I got to the temple, I made a few wishes to the Buddha. My first wish was for my parents to be sound and healthy; this was very important to me. My second wish was that I could finish this June 4th project, and do a good job. 

Well, in this sense, although I didn’t believe in Buddhism at the time, I was indebted to it and grateful. That is, the task went on without a hitch; much smoother than I thought could be done. I found all the people I needed to find, and with some cases it went exceptionally well. In this way, I got a full list of “rioters” from a total of five prisons: Beijing No. 1 and No. 2 prisons, and three branches of the Chadian Farm in Tianjin. Some of the information was incomplete. There are fewer than 100 people for whom details were lacking, such as home address. There were probably some people like this, whose information was not complete. But there were probably about 500 people, whose information was very clear, including name, crime, sentence, address, and contact information. In the opinion of the authorities, it was inconceivable that I could have been so meticulous. Later, after the police took me into custody, they said to me, you did this in such detail; it’s unimaginable. 

As for Beijing No. 2 Prison, I found someone who had just been released from there. I talked to him about this. I said that we need a list now, and we need to get it overseas. If we can get these names to people overseas, first, we’ll let the outside world know about them, and second, try to get them some help. I talked to him, and he said yes.

He said that I know what to do – I will go back to the prison; there is a list there, I will get it for you. And he did just that.  He obtained the list, but I was at the moment traveling again around the country. He was unable to get hold of me. His pager couldn’t find me. So he gave the list to someone else. So out of the blue, this person received a list. He then sent it overseas. But for a long time he didn’t know that I arranged this whole thing. He thought he did it. 

We sent the lists out. Before this, foreign reporters had asked a Chinese spokesperson that they’ve heard that after the June 4th incident, a large number of ordinary people received heavy sentences. Is this true? The spokesperson of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs was unruffled. He was resolute: This is an unfounded fabrication!


Five years after martial law troops stormed Beijing, many people arrested in the crackdown remain in jail. The Chinese government has claimed that all students arrested in connection with the 1989 pro-democracy movement have now been released, as if other prisoners, such as workers, were of no concern.

Human Rights Watch/Asia (formerly Asia Watch) and Human Rights in China (HRIC) recently obtained new lists of over 500 individuals in Beijing alone who were convicted for offenses related to the 1989 protests. A mere twenty-nine of these cases were previously known to human rights organizations. Over 200 of the detainees remain in jail today, performing hard labor and often suffering, as a result of the lack of attention to their cases, from torture and other serious abuses.

In view of the nationwide scope of the 1989 demonstrations, we can safely assume that thousands of prisoners whose names we do not know still languish in prison for their role in those protests.

Li Hai

This thing happened on either May 15 or May 19, 1994. At that time, Liu Qing [from Human Rights in China] called me from abroad, because it’s very cheap to make overseas call from the U.S. He usually would ask me to call him first; then he would called back. I used a public telephone. He said, your lists have been published. In order to protect you, we intentionally mixed up the order of those lists. Or something like that. 

On May 19, HRIC published the list. After the list was made public, HRIC sent money orders in large mailbags from the U.S. –– things were not as strict then as they are now. Most families were allocated US$200 each, and some $400, $600, but that was unusual and only for special circumstances. Most of them received $200. It was donations received by the Independent Federation of Chinese Students and Scholars (IFCSS) for June 4th.  This money originally was raised by IFCSS for the democracy movement, but after the June 4 massacre, the donated funds were frozen because the money had no place to go anymore in China. So what HRIC sent was this money. I went a little too far, that is, I wanted to personally deliver the money to each family. Only if I sent the money to each and every family, only then, would my heart feel satisfied. But that wasn’t a rational thing to do. I shouldn’t have gotten involved in it. So, Jiang Qisheng, Zhang Xiaoping, and I, the three of us, distributed the funds to each family.

One time, Jiang Qisheng was caught when he was delivering funds.  How did this happen?  The family he was delivering money to reported him to the local police station, and as a result, Jiang was taken into custody and detained for a month. The family did what the CCP indoctrinated them to do. I also experienced a few hiccups. For example, some of those we assisted thought I was misusing their names, and quarreled with me.  But such incidents were few. At the time, we also had a group, which was comprised of those ordinary people who had been released from prison, and we also had a group that got together for meals and such. 

After Human Rights in China made this matter public, the PRC Ministry of Foreign Affairs never again denied it so forcefully. So, I can say that I was the first among the 1989 students to pay such attention to these jailed Beijing residents.  But very few people know about it. Except for those involved, few people know about this matter.


At the time of their arrests, they ranged in age from seventeen to seventy-one. These previously unknown prisoners were generally treated more harshly by the courts than intellectuals and students and were more frequently charged with “criminal” offenses. For the most part, they are people who were seen on television screens around the world in May 1989, marching in the streets, blocking the path of the troops entering the city with improvised barricades, running through the streets on the night of June 3-4, and throwing rocks and paving stones at the tanks and armed personnel carriers.

Li Hai

When I did these things, there was also an economic precondition. It was quite a coincidence. After I was released from the detention center, I got in touch with a wide range of contacts in Beijing. Among them there was a person named Chen Xiaoping, who was from the China University of Political Science and Law. I went to see him. We didn’t really see each other much, but he helped me a lot. After seeing him, he said he would introduce me to a friend of his from Amnesty International. Then I went to see this AI friend, who on the spot gave me 4,000 yuan. I bought a computer with it. It was very expensive at the time. I bought a computer, and then what did I do with it? I used the computer to sort and organize information. I entered the lists I had collected, and merged them. It was a pretty rare situation to have at that time.

After this, I was in fact on my way to prison already. From the time when HRIC made the lists public to delivering the donations, I was heading to prison, because the authorities began to shift their attention toward me. 

There was something mysterious at work. In fact, right after the Chinese New Year in 1995, I felt awful, just very uncomfortable, oppressive. Just terrible. In May 1995, a major event happened, but I did not realize at the time, and it involved hostility in the China-U.S. relationship.  At that time,

[the Taiwanese President]

Lee Teng-hui was transiting through the U.S., and he disembarked, which China considered to be tantamount to Lee Teng-hui visiting the U.S.  This was unacceptable to the Chinese government, and it was a big deal. It felt like the two countries might break off relations.  As a show of displeasure, the Chinese authorities began to seize a number of pro-democracy activists; toward the end of May, the police seized activists in two waves.

Around May 24, police took into custody Wang Dan, Liu Nianchun and a few others, three or four. Before that, another group had already been taken in. Based on my judgment and experience at the time, I thought, now they have done two rounds of detentions already, perhaps it’s better now, perhaps the authorities have been satisfied. I let down my guard a little bit.

A police officer came looking for me from the First Section, which was like the domestic security police today, which wasn’t called domestic security then, but political security. He seemed to be specifically charged with making contact with me, and would visit me all the time for no particular reason. He told me I couldn’t leave Beijing that year. I got away from Beijing every year around that time, so I told him that, if I don’t go out during the June 4th anniversary, something will happen to me. He said that he would guarantee I’d be fine. So by the end of May I was still in Beijing. Then some strange things happened. All of this was fate.

There was a woman named Xin Hong in Beijing. She pretended to be our supporter, and had frequent contact with Liu Nianchun’s wife. She appeared to be deranged. She called me on May 31. That afternoon I was planning to do something else; I was going to pay a visit to a lay Buddhist. 

She called me and said, I want to see you. I said, before June 4th, we should all stay quiet. I said it’s best if we don’t move, so it’s not good for us to see each other. She said, no, I feel exasperated, and I must see you. She said that the police constantly harassed her and she was very distressed. I said that the best thing to do is to stay at home, and not go anywhere. I refused her in this way.  After a bit, she called me again, she said, no, I must come. I said that I have something to do in the afternoon. I am going to pay a visit to a lay Buddhist.  She said that she also wanted to visit the lay Buddhist. I was not as vigilant as I should have been. I said you don’t study Buddhism, why do you want to go visit?

She said no, I have to go, I’m really agitated, I have to get out. So in the end we went together to pay a visit to the Buddhist. After our visit near the Drum Tower, we should have gone home separately. She said no, can’t I have a meal with you? She said she wanted to go to my home to have a meal. She insisted on coming over. I gave in, and said OK, it’s not far anyway, you can come over. Then she came over, and I cooked noodles for her.

My desk was in the middle of the room, a row of desks. In the middle of the desks, there was a line of books, with name lists as well as my work notes inside, including notes about what I did today and what I was going to do tomorrow. After she arrived, all she did was look at every single book I had, and every piece of paper. It was very suspicious. She turned every book over and flipped the pages, looking for things inside.

I was disgusted, because no one wants others to see what they’ve written on every single piece of paper, and then the next. When she did this, I was a little … I said, don’t do this. . . I said, these are my things; you shouldn’t touch them, OK? You can sit here. But still, she was going through my papers. Then I went to the kitchen to attend to the noodles. When I came back, she was at it again.  I was annoyed with her and there was some scuffling. She was angry, but she was fine, and ate up the noodles. After she’d finished, on her way out, she said: No, you can’t do this, I will report you! I said: What can you possibly report about me?  I didn’t take it seriously at all.

But at 10 o’clock that evening, when I was meditating at home, there was a knock at the door, and several policemen came in. They said they were police officers from the nearby station, and that a person named Xin Hong reported that you had harassed her. I said there was no such thing. They said, no, since someone reported you, you have to come to the police station. After two hours at the station, they took me to Chaoyang Public Security Bureau (PSB).

This was May 31.  I left home, was taken to the Chaoyang PSB, and never came back out. On June 4th, the police went to my house and conducted a search. They confiscated everything, including some court judgments I had collected. Fortunately, there were some miracles in here. The day before I was taken away, I turned my computer on, it made a popping sound, short circuited, and discharged smoke. The monitor was broken, short-circuited. Just before that, I had emptied out my computer.  I put everything that was on my computer onto a CD.  All the material related to June 4th was placed on the CD. But the CD has never been found.

So they were very proud of themselves when they confiscated my computer, but there was nothing on it. First, the computer itself wouldn’t display because the monitor was broken; second, there was absolutely nothing on the hard drive. This was very peculiar, just extraordinary.

It was also strange how I ended up in jail; it was a trap.  Later, when my family heard of my “offense,” they went to look for this woman, but couldn’t find her. They asked around and got her address, but when they went to her place there was no one there; they could not find this woman. Then I was criminally detained on this charge. A few days after I was criminally detained, they moved me from temporary detention to a detention center.

40 some days into detention, they laid their cards on the table. They said, tell us now, did you send these names overseas? 

They charged me with “leaking state secrets.”  The law at that time stipulated a maximum sentence of seven years for disclosing state secrets. I figured that I would be sentenced to at most five years, because first, this thing was not a state secret, right? Second, even if it was, there was no justification for a conviction, so there was no way I would get more than five years. I couldn’t even accept three years. So that’s how it was at the time.

However, they changed the charge in the judgment to a crime called “prying into state secrets,” and sentenced me to nine years in prison. They changed the charge but did not give me an opportunity to defend myself against this new charge. Regardless, in terms of both procedure and content, since the court already agreed that I had not sent this information abroad, I didn’t do this thing, which means that they accepted my defense, right?

A week before they delivered the verdict, the judge came to the detention center with a few people. Now that I think about it, they probably were from the Ministry of State Security. The judge said, your verdict will be delivered imminently, and now, you still have a chance, if you explain the whole thing to us. Then he mentioned a few names; he was very close; his guesses were very close.  But I lost control of myself there and then. It’s all fate. My attitude towards them up until this point, including during the trial, had been mild and gentle, but at this point I was somewhat angry and irritated. There was nothing I could do about this.

I said I couldn’t. I said I couldn’t sell out any friend of mine for a longer or shorter sentence. I said that it was impossible to make me do this. They were a little aggravated. The judge said you should consider this carefully, and that even when you serve your sentence at a prison, you’ll still be under our control. I said that the worst thing that can happen to me is death.  I said that even if I die, my spirit will live on. Those were the exact words I spoke at the time. If I die, my spirit will live on. Of course, this is also the Communist Party education I received from an early age. Then, a week later, the judge gave me a nine-year sentence. 

A nine-year sentence. Then an appeal. Exactly two years after I was arrested, on June 3, 1997, I was sent to Liangxiang Prison, in Xiaozhuang (Beijing).

At that time, Beijing had a lot of prisons, but they put me in Liangxiang Prison. I guess that the authorities didn’t know how I had gotten all that information, and they were afraid I had contacts with some guards in prisons, so they put me in a prison where there were no political prisoners. Moreover, Liangxiang Prison was a crueler place. It was originally a reeducation-through-labor (RTL) facility, which was converted into a prison.  RTL camps were very harsh, because the detention time periods were relatively short, and the RTL guards had many ways to torture people.

In Liangxiang Prison, they gave me a hard time for another two and a half years.

They would use all kinds of nitpicky reasons to punish me, such as instigating an inmate to curse me, crushing me with harsh labor, not allowing me to sleep, and so on. They played these games all day long, 24-7. Because the government was still hoping that I would confess, and then I could… but they told me that if you admit guilt, you must also explain clearly how you did this thing: how you got the information, and how you sent it abroad.  But I wouldn’t admit guilt for two reasons.  I’m not against admitting guilt for leniency, even when I’m not guilty. But first, I thought that HRIC must have been working hard, advocating for me in the outside world.  I couldn’t admit guilt here while HRIC was working hard on my behalf.  Second, I couldn’t betray people.

After being tortured for two and a half years, things suddenly changed four and a half years into my term.  Just after I had completed half of my sentence, they said that from now on you will go to the front to work. It was a much easier job. All I had to do was mop the floor of the TV room.  From then on, I had the opportunity to study. I could read books, and had the time to read books. After I finished my work, I could read. The second half of my sentence was much better.

Here I’ll talk about something I can be proud of. There was a prison guard who persecuted me since I first entered the prison. He was stupid and wanted to earn merits. If he succeeded in making me admit guilt, it would be “meritorious service.” He shocked me with electric batons, and used all kinds of methods to make me suffer.

After I sent the news out, my parents immediately contacted the relevant UN human rights bodies, and threatened a sit-in demonstration outside the prison gate.  Ultimately, the prison administration said that the guard would be punished. At this point I felt some pity for him. I didn’t really hate him. I knew that he was a poor farmer. A prison guard. If I persisted, he would be demoted and even maybe lose his job.

So I did not testify that he tortured me. At that time, he was very pitiful; his gaze inclined toward me, as if to say, please spare me.

When I was released from prison, this prison guard said, you’ve been locked up for nine years, I have only one impression of you: you are like an ascetic monk.  In prison, from the time I entered until when I left, I was under a restriction regime. It was called “second-grade restriction,” that is, I had none of the rights that all the other prisoners had, including the right to buy extra food. Later on, I was allowed to, but only a little. 

I think he was right: I was an ascetic monk. I had no desires. He also told my parents that he had never seen a prisoner like me. He told them that I was in a calm state all the time. I also agreed with this point. Why? Because I knew what I had done was right. What I did for the June 4th prisoners was not a matter of my being a hero or not; that had nothing to do with it.  What I did was right. What I did was not wrong.  It is you who did wrong. Didn’t June 4 happen? Didn’t you kill? Should I help people or not?  Taking everything into account, in my heart I am certain that as long as you are doing the right thing, nothing else matters. I have suffered for what I did, but that’s something else.  

I am very grateful for how it all went. Why grateful?  Because the entire process is the one thing I am most proud of in my life.

Because I was an individual facing such a government by myself, facing so many agents of the government, and I completed this task perfectly. It was perfectly done. Not a single person was implicated because of me. Whatever they knew when they took me into custody, they didn’t know any more when they released me.  They didn’t get anything more from me.  It’s just that I was sentenced to nine years, that’s all.  So I am most proud of this. If I guess correctly, it is also something I am very grateful to Buddhism for.  This matter really seemed to have God’s help, and it was perfectly done.  

Before all of this happened, I did say to myself that, for these people, even if I am detained for 10 years, I am willing.  I said this to myself, but I didn’t expect it to actually be the case. No one wants to be imprisoned for 10 years. It’s a scary number. But it really is true: if the price for doing what I’ve done is nine years of imprisonment, I’d still be willing to do what I’ve done. If the equation has to be such, I’d still be willing.

But the Communist Party is much more cruel than you think.  After I was locked up in the detention center, a friend of mine from another part of the country was also brought in. He told me that the CCP was spreading rumors everywhere, saying that I had engaged in improper sexual relationships with wives of political prisoners.  (Chuckling) That’s what they did. They want to destroy your reputation, your entire being, and everything you have. For example, the letters my family wrote to me, they took them all away. They want you to become a person who has absolutely nothing. 

You can’t begin to imagine their kind of viciousness.  They will destroy you; they will do everything they can to destroy you. You can’t imagine the things they do. 

Of course, as far as I’m concerned, I’ve become more detached. These things don’t matter. You do what you should do, and do what you think is right. This is most important. For me, as long as I am doing the right thing, nothing else matters. They can do whatever they want, it doesn’t matter; nothing matters.

During those years, my parents gave me tremendous support.

After I was taken into custody, for about a half a month, or maybe a month, the police didn’t inform my family. No one knew where I was, except that police suddenly came to search my place, taking my computer and everything else away. My parents didn’t know my whereabouts. 

About a week after I was detained, someone from the detention center told me that there was a person outside asking about Li Hai. I knew it was my mother. But the guards at the gate probably didn’t tell her anything. Anyway, what they did at that time is like what they are doing today to the [human rights] lawyers: for a long time, a person goes missing; he’s detained but nobody knows where. Later, my family helped me retain a lawyer.

I was in prison for about 84 months. Seven years. Once a month, for 80 months, my parents visited me. There were only a few months they didn’t go; for example, they couldn’t make it or asked someone else to visit me. 

80 months. Every month they took Bus No. 120 from home right here, rode about an hour to the Temple of Heaven, where they transferred to another bus, which they rode for more than an hour to get to Liangxiang. They took this trip every month. Every time they came to see me, they probably couldn’t sleep the night before, because they had bad sleep to begin with. They’d get up at four or five o’clock in the morning. The buses had a fixed schedule. Their support was very important to me, because as soon as I entered prison, the guards tortured me. I kept telling this information to my parents in special ways. Later, they tightened things up and treated me like they are treating Qin Yongmin now. They did not allow me to say anything about prison abuse. But I had my method. After all I was able to get the word out.

So for years, my mother made petitions on my behalf, and I learned later on that she was hard at it and did everything she could. Of course at first my parents didn’t know how to do it, especially the first two years. I really needed them but they didn’t know how to advocate for me, because under the CCP’s rule, all they had ever known was to be submissive. Later other families of political prisoners, like the wife of Liu Nianchun, showed them how. So they learned that the more you submit, the fewer scruples the authorities have. On some issues you just have to make loud demand.  It was a huge support for me. It helped me to go through it all and came out alive.

Still, prison life altered my life profoundly. It ravaged my mind and body quite obviously. 

As I was just saying, after I was released from prison, I basically lost the ability to express myself. At the same time, my relationship with the whole movement was different. I was marginalized. Before, I had been the one who led.  

I came out of prison and saw so many friends. I didn’t know anything they were talking about. I didn’t understand anything. Mobile phones, computers, this and that, all seemed so complicated, and took a lot of effort to learn. I used to be a quite accomplished long distance runner, but after I came out, my heart was not good. During my entire time in prison, I was not allowed to exercise. So I paid a pretty high price. A bit too high perhaps. 

After I came out, a friend asked me to compile a book, but every few days he couldn’t get in touch with me. Ever so frequently I was under “house arrest” and couldn’t go out to do things. So our contact was cut off. The police did this every few days. So the book project was ruined. Everything, including making a living, living a normal life, for example, I wanted to go for a run every few days, but the police came and wouldn’t let me go out. They destroyed all of my life’s possibilities. They probably did this on purpose. 

Starting in 2005, I began to participate more. I joined discussions on a website called Free China. I participated in some public affairs, such as supporting Gao Zhisheng, and activities like this. In 2006, we went to Linyi, in Shandong province, to support Chen Guangcheng. And there were some other things. Overall, from my heart, I feel I’ve never left the movement, I’ve always been in the movement, but haven’t actually accomplished too much. I’ve spent most of my time avoiding police harassment, avoiding their interference of my life.

The Communist Party is very vicious. When they took me into custody, I was 41 years old, and when I came out, I was 50 years old. Then they harassed me for another six or seven years. They used violence to force themselves into my life, making it impossible for me to live a normal life. In this way, they deprived me of another six or seven years. 

During the “Jasmine Revolution” in 2011, they detained and tortured me. For the entire year, officers from the municipal PSB came to see me every week.  They meddled in my life, and didn’t allow me to have contact with anyone. After 2011, my life changed again. In short, I simply gave up a lot of things in exchange for some things that I am able to do.


The political prisoners in Team No.9 are being forced to work ten- to sixteen-hour days, seven days per week, at various production tasks such as checking latex gloves for quality.

Team Nos.5 and 12 are said to be processing woolen clothing on behalf of two factories run by the municipal Bureau of Textile Industry; these are reportedly also for export. In addition, the inmates of Team No.5 manufacture small toys.

In Team No.18, prisoners work on their cell floors making disposable, single-use chopsticks; no provisions or safety standards for hygienic production are observed. Inmates can be punished by the guards at any time and on any pretext, often with electric batons. They receive no pay, and many of them are said to have developed respiratory conditions and severe hand ailments as a result of the prolonged and repetitive forced labor.

In the early hours of October 30, 1993, Sun Hong, a twenty-two-year-old “June 4th” prisoner serving a suspended death sentence, later commuted to life imprisonment, for alleged arson offenses, became despairing at the harsh prison regime and attempted suicide by driving a long sewing needle hard into the left side of his chest. Before doing so, he left two letters containing his last wishes and statements; on the envelope of one was written the words, “I’m going home now.” Discovered by the guards, he was rushed to the prison clinic and the needle was surgically removed. But in line with the regulations against “self-mutilators,” Sun was not granted medical bail; instead, he too was sent to the solitary confinement block for ten days and then returned to the cells.

The Qinghe penal complex is often loosely referred to as “Chadian Farm.” Most of the approximately 200 democracy movement prisoners from 1989 who are listed below as still held at Qinghe Farm are housed in the eastern sector. The overwhelming majority of these prisoners’ cases previously were unknown.

The camp is divided into some twenty-five different “branches,” each of which is in turn subdivided into several brigades. Branches No.3, No.6, and No.8 each set up special brigades for the prisoners sentenced in connection with the 1989 protests. These are popularly known as “rioter” brigades. All their inmates perform extremely arduous forced labor building the local road network. Each is expected to dig six cubic meters of earth every day; should he fail, he reportedly is either physically punished or has his rations reduced.


Miao Deshun (苗德顺), the last June 4th prisoner, was released on October 15, 2016. His current whereabouts are unknown.

“1989 photos”

Fengsuo Zhou

David Chen

AP & other news organizations


By Lowell Lo


Violin solo by Ken Giles

A China Change Production


2 responses to “Li Hai’s List”

  1. […] Li Hai’s List, from ChinaChange […]

  2. […] Li Hai’s List, from ChinaChange […]

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.