From his prison
cell, veteran Chinese journalist Jiang Weiping wrote a poem to his daughter,
Jennifer, which included the lines: "Though the road home has many twists and
turns / Your daddy believes that we will be reunited soon." She was little more
than 10 years old when he was imprisoned in 2000 for reporting on a
high-profile corruption case that rocked northern
Last week, Jiang's hopes were finally granted--but the road was twisted indeed. The family was reunited at Toronto's Pearson International Airport, courtesy of an intervention by Canadian Immigration Minister Jason Kenney, who signed a permit allowing Jiang to leave China for Canada on humanitarian grounds. There he rejoined his wife, Li Yanling, and daughter, Jiangyue. They emigrated there in January 2004 and use their English names Stella and Jennifer. Jiang had not seen them since.
Stella was with
him when Jiang appeared in public for the first time today to address
journalists at a press conference sponsored by PEN Canada held in downtown
"I believe journalists have a duty to report the truth about society," Jiang said in his determined, but soft-spoken voice. "I don't regret what I've done. What I observed in prison strengthened my beliefs."
Jiang sat down
with me to describe the trials his family has faced since his incarceration.
While packing his belongings before leaving
Jennifer was 12
years old when both her parents were behind bars. An aunt looked after her, and
she took to carrying contact information for her father's friends in
Jiang served a total of five years for revealing state secrets and subverting state power. Those charges are a double whammy; they are the two most commonly used to imprison critics of the communist state.
CPJ recorded 28
journalists in prison in
high-profile subversion cases, like that of Hu Jia--an activist who frequently
spoke with foreign journalists and wrote multiple articles online--Jiang was a
journalist of the old school. He filed for state news agency Xinhua and worked
as northeast bureau chief for a
Even so, he
knew the stories he was researching as a freelancer for a July 1999 special
"anti-corruption edition" of Hong Kong-based Qianshao ("Front Line") magazine were sensitive. As he slammed the
corrupt practices of officials in
As Jiang now knows, neither his confidence in the party's anti-corruption drive, nor his caution in obscuring his identity, were enough. On December 5, 2000, he was detained. His wife wasn't told of his whereabouts for a month.
She told me today that she felt desperate the night he went missing. He never came home that evening after having dropped her at work and their daughter at school that morning as usual. They'd made dinner plans, and she frantically called hospitals and police stations when he failed to come home. The next day, when public security officials summoned her home from work and told her not to bring her daughter home that night, she knew something serious had happened.
allowed to attend the 2001 trial in which Jiang was sentenced to eight
years in prison. Stella was not able to visit her husband until February 20,
2003, Jiang said, the date still clear in his mind nearly six years later. That
was when they moved him from the detention center, where family visits are not
allowed, to one of the prisons in
Jiang said he had a feeling at their last meeting in 2003--when Stella tried to give him medicines, which the attendant prison guards refused to let him accept--that she had a plan to escape. But the first he heard of it was a week after they left. A prison guard told him, "Your wife's done a runner, didn't you know?" From that point on, he said, knowing his family was safe, he had nothing left to fear.
The hardships he
has undergone since then are difficult to imagine. He has spent periods in
solitary confinement without heating, in freezing northern
Both local and
international journalists united in proclaiming Jiang's innocence. CPJ delivered
Jiang received a CPJ International Press Freedom Award in 2001, which, he said today, had encouraged him "immensely." But the award also left him "deeply humbled, knowing many other journalists were working in extremely dangerous situations in other parts of the world."
On January 4, 2006, after two years were knocked off his original eight-year sentence on appeal, Jiang was finally released. His time was commuted a further year for good behavior. It wasn't much of a concession, however: In 2005, CPJ wrote that he should have qualified for parole under Chinese law since 2003.
But the reunion
he had promised Jennifer was not yet at hand. His sentence came with an extra
three-year deprivation of political rights, a not uncommon way for authorities
to prevent critics from writing about them in the years immediately after their
release. During this period, Jiang was not eligible for a passport, and could
not join his family in
purgatory came to an end in January this year. He made a tentative trip to the
local public security bureau and was able to obtain the necessary travel
documents. When Canadian Immigration Minister Kenney learned of his case,
they agreed to provide him with a rare emergency entry to the country on
humanitarian grounds. He traveled secretly to
For staff at
CPJ, many of whom have met Stella and vividly remember the details of Jiang's
case, the news of his safe arrival in
Jiang once promised his daughter from his prison cell that he would never be deterred, writing in his poetry, "He will certainly pick up his pen once again!" Today, Jiang spoke of how he's been losing sleep as he considers what he can do to help other prisoners of conscience, expressing his desire to pick up his pen and fight for their early release.
(Reporting from Toronto)