China Is Accused of Torturing 3 Who Defaced Mao Portrait
By NICHOLAS D. KRISTOF (Special to The New York Times )
BEIJING, May 31
Among those who received the harshest punishments in connection with the 1989 Tiananmen democracy movement were three men who shocked the nation by hurling paint at the huge portrait of Mao Zedong that overlooks Tiananmen Square.
The authorities promptly replaced the portrait with an identical one, and the men were largely forgotten. There was no major outcry in the summer of 1989 when a Beijing court sentenced the men to prison terms of 16 years, 20 years and life.
Now Asia Watch, a division of Human Rights Watch in New York, says in a report issued today that the three have been tortured in prison and that two of the three have been kept in tiny solitary confinement cells for the last 30 months.
The case of the three men has attracted relatively little attention abroad, partly because not much is known about them and partly because they defaced a public portrait -- a criminal offense that could lead to imprisonment in the West as well as in China. A spokesman for the Foreign Affairs Office in Hunan Province, where the three are reportedly imprisoned, said he had no information on the men, and an official of the Chinese State Council Information Office also declined to comment on the charges by Asia Watch. All Three From Hunan (64memo反貪倡廉/89)
The three men are Yu Zhijian, a 27-year-old elementary school teacher; Yu Dongyue, a fine arts journalist whose age is unknown, and Lu Decheng, a 28-year-old employee of a bus company. All three are from Hunan Province in south-central China, and Asia Watch said that they are held at the Hunan Province No. 3 Prison in Lingling. (64memo.com´89)
Mr. Lu, who is serving the 16-year sentence, was kept in solitary confinement for six months and then was returned to a normal cell, Asia Watch said. Yu Zhijian, who was sentenced to life, and Yu Dongyue, who is serving the 20-year term, have been kept in punishment cells since late 1989, the report said.
"Yu Dongyue, the one-time fine arts editor, has become badly disturbed psychologically, to the extent even of having lost control of his excretory functions," said Asia Watch, which cited "inside sources" in compiling an extensive report on human rights conditions in Hunan Province. Much of the report was written by Tang Boqiao, a former student and democracy advocate who was detained for more than a year in 10 different jails or detention centers in Hunan and Guangdong Provinces. (64memo.com - 1989)
The solitary confinement cells at Lingling Prison are damp, almost pitch-dark and about the size of a closet, the report said. Lacking heating or ventilation, they reportedly are freezing cold in winter and almost unbearably hot in summer.
Prisoners are, however, allowed out three times a day for a brief meal in the exercise yard.
Yu Zhijian, the teacher, has lost so much weight that he appears almost skeletal, the report said. It added that Yu Zhijian and Yu Dongyue had been subjected to various physical tortures because of "reactionary statements" they made about officials.
Copyright 1992 The New York Times Company