Liu Jingsheng is a peaceful opposition activist and a former co-editor of Tansuo (Explorations), a journal he founded in the late 1970s along with Wei Jingsheng. He was born around 1950, and played a leading role in the Democracy Wall movement of the late 1970s; this involvement led to a theft charge and his arrest, along with Wei, for producing and distributing their journal. Upon his release he resumed his job as a bus driver, and nothing was heard of him outside of China until 1992, when he was arrested for his associations with “counter-revolutionary organizations.” He was released in November 2004, two and a half years before his sentence was set to expire.
On May 28, 1992, Liu Jingsheng was arrested as one of the “Beijing Fifteen,” the largest group of Chinese labor and democracy activists to be tried since the prosecutions of the 1989 protestors came to be known. Liu and the others were detained incommunicado for two years until their trial in July 1994, at which Liu was found guilty of membership in counter-revolutionary organizations, most notably the Chinese Progressive Alliance, Liberal Democratic Party of China, and Free Labor Union of China (a group which calls for increased workers’ rights). The accusations also included playing a leading role in the Liberal Party and in the drafting and distribution of documents concerning the Preparatory Committee of Free Labor Union; the dissemination of pro-democracy leaflets around June 4, 1992; and involvement in the production of the Freedom Forum journal and a statement on China’s human rights situation.
On December 16, 1994, Liu was sentenced to eight years’ imprisonment for leading a “counter-revolutionary group” and a second eight years for “counter-revolutionary propaganda.” These were combined into a 15-year prison sentence and four years’ deprivation of political rights.
Liu’s prison term was originally set to expire on May 27, 2007. His sentence was reduced by one year and three months in 2000 and 2001 for “good behavior.” Though it was believed he would be released in February of 2007, Liu was released from prison on November 24, 2004.
Liu Jingsheng is also an Honorary Member of the English, German, New Zealand, Netherlands, and Swedish PEN Centers. In 1998 he was a recipient of a PEN/Barbara Goldsmith Freedom to Write Award.