Fri, Feb 24, 2006 - Page 1 News List

Freed journalist insane after years in Chinese prison


A Chinese journalist freed nearly 17 years after he was jailed for splattering ink on Mao Zedong's (毛澤東) portrait during the Tiananmen pro-democracy movement has gone insane, his father said yesterday.

"He is suffering from mental illness ... he gives few responses and has not said anything," said Yu Yingkui, the father of 38-year old Yu Dongyue (俞東嶽), who was released on Wednesday.

"Of course we're happy he's back ... now that he's back we have to try ways to cure his illness," Yu Yingkui said.

Yu Dongyue, 38, had returned to his family home in Shegang, Hunan Province, his brother and father said.

Yu, a journalist and art critic with Liuyang News, was arrested in May 1989 during the Tiananmen student protests after he and two friends had hurled eggs filled with red paint at the famous painting of Mao that hangs above the entrance to the Forbidden City. Yu was convicted of "sabotage" and "counter-revolutionary propaganda" and jailed for 20 years.

"He no longer recognizes me," said Yu Xiyue, a younger brother who made a prison visit last year.

In 2004, Reporters Without Borders, the journalism advocacy group, said Yu had gone insane as a result of being tortured in prison.

Human-rights groups have long made Yu's release a priority.

John Kamm, the human-rights campaigner who had long lobbied on behalf of Yu, stopped short of giving China credit for leniency. He said Yu's original 20-year sentence -- which had twice been reduced -- concluded on Feb. 21.

"It's an early release only in the sense that he was originally sentenced to 20 years," said Kamm, whose San Francisco-based Dui Hua Foundation serves as an advocate for the release of Chinese political prisoners. "Frankly, I was hoping they would commute. In my opinion, this is a fairly minor gesture, if one at all."

In 2004, Lu Decheng (魯德成), one of the two friends arrested with Yu, visited him in prison and told Radio Free Asia that he was "barely recognizable."

Yu had "a totally dull look in his eyes, kept repeating words over and over as if he was chanting a mantra," Lu said. "He had a big scar on the right side of his head. A fellow prisoner said Yu had been tied to an electricity pole and left out in the hot sun for several days. He was also kept in solitary confinement for two years and that was what broke him."

Comments will be moderated. Keep comments relevant to the article. Remarks containing abusive and obscene language, personal attacks of any kind or promotion will be removed and the user banned. Final decision will be at the discretion of the Taipei Times.

TOP top