This list consists of these activists who are known as Chinese dissidents. The label is primarily applied to intellectuals who "push the boundaries" of society or criticize the policies of the government. Examples of the former include Wei Hui and Jia Pingwa, whose sexually explicit writings reflect dissent from traditional Chinese culture rather than the laws of the state.

Detained and jailed people

Many Chinese political activists have been detained or jailed or exiled for their pro-democracy or rights defending activities. They include the following notable activists.

Name Occupation Detained Allegations Sentence Notes
Ai Weiwei artist and activist 2011 alleged economic crimes Fine of 2.4 million for tax evasion Detained for 80 days from April 3.[1] to 22 June 2011
Bao Tong government official 1989 revealing state secrets and counter-revolutionary propagandizing 7 years Sentenced 1992. Prison: 1989–1996. As of 2009, under surveillance.
Bao Zunxin historian 1989 counterrevolutionary propaganda and incitement 5 years Sentenced 1991. Released 1992, died 2007.
Cai Lujun businessman, writer 2003 incitement to subversion 3 years Released 2006, sought political asylum in Taiwan in 2007.
Chen Pokong author, commentator, democracy activist 1989, 1993 "carrying out counter-revolutionary propaganda and incitement", illegally crossing state borders 3 years, 2 years Sentenced 1989 and 1993.[2]
Cheng Jianping online activist 2010 disturbing social order 1 year Reeducation through labor for a sarcastic post on Twitter.[3]
Gao Zhisheng lawyer ~2006 disturbing public order 5 yrs suspended Illegally detained and tortured in 2007; forcibly removed from family home in Shaanxi in 2009.[4]

'Disappeared' by government in 2009, reappeared in 2010. The Chinese foreign minister claimed a prison sentence was for 'subversion'.[5][6]

Guo Quan professor 2008 subversion of state power 10 years Sentenced 2009. Awaiting appeal.
He Depu writer 2002 "incited subversion" on the Internet[7] 8 years Sentenced 2003. Expected release 2010.
Hu Jia activist 2007 inciting subversion of state power 3.5 years Arrested, imprisoned, and sentenced in 2008. Expected release 2011.
Huang Qi webmaster, anti-human trafficking activist 2000 inciting subversion 5 years Sentenced 2003. Accused of violating articles 103, 105, 55 and 56. Released 2005.
2008 illegal possession of state secrets 3 years Sentenced 2009. Arrested after essay regarding the Sichuan earthquake.
Ilham Tohti economist 2014 guilty of separatism life Detained in January 2014 after criticizing Beijing's response to 2013 Tiananmen Square attack.
Jiang Lijun writer 2002 inciting subversion of the state power 4 years Sentenced 2003. Arrested for "Internet writing and publishing dissident articles". Also sentenced to 'deprivation of political rights' for 1 year.
Jiang Rong writer 1989 Released 1991.
Jiang Yanyong doctor 2004 Detained and released in 2004. Broke story on SARS epidemic. Wrote critical letter regarding Tiananmen.
Jiang Yefei political cartoonist 2015 incitement to subversion Escaped from China to Thailand in 2004, he was granted political asylum by the Canadian Government, but was arrested by Thailand Immigration authorities on illegal entry. In November 2015 he was deported from Thailand at the request of the Chinese authorities and now awaiting trial in custody.[8]
Li Hai student 1994 9 years Sentenced in 1995. Released 2004.
Li Zhi civil servant 2003 inciting subversion 8 years Sentenced 2003. Yahoo! helped the government against him. Expected release in 2011.
Liao Yiwu writer, musician 1990 poem "Massacre" about Tiananmen Square 4 years, permanent blacklist from travel Under a 2011 'travel ban' for 'national security' reasons.
Liu Di student 2002 Released in 2003
Liu Xiaobo professor of literature 2008 inciting subversion of state power 11 years Sentenced 2009. Died July 13, 2017. Recipient of the 2010 Nobel Peace Prize.
Shi Tao journalist, writer, poet 2004 illegally supplying state secrets to overseas organizations 10 years Sentenced 2005. Yahoo! helped the government against him. Released 2013.[9][10]
Tan Zuoren writer 2008 3 years Sentenced 2009.
2010 subversion of state power 5 years Sentenced 2010.
Tang Baiqiao activist 1989 spreading counterrevolutionary propaganda; inciting counterrevolutionary activities; defection to the enemy; treason. 3 years Released under international pressure 1991. Fled to Hong Kong, then U.S. 1992.
Wang Bingzhang doctor 2002 spying, terrorism life Sentenced 2003.
Wang Dan professor of history 1989 Tiananmen activities 4 years Sentenced 1991. Released on parole in 1993.
1995 11 years Sentenced 1996. Released on medical parole to U.S. in 1998; currently in Taiwan.
Wang Xiaoning engineer 2002 incitement to subvert state power 10 years Sentenced 2003. Yahoo! helped the government against him. Expected release 2012[11]
Wang Youcai 1989 [citation needed]
~1998 subversion 11 years Released and exiled in 2004; currently in the United States.
Wei Jingsheng electrician 1979 passing military secrets 15 years Released and jailed again in 1993; released for "medical reasons" and deported to the US in 1997.
Wu Gan blogger 2015 subversion of state power 8 years
Xu Zhiyong lawyer, lecturer 2014 gathering crowds to disrupt public order 4 years For his role of founding New Citizens' Movement and in protests.
Yuan Hongbing jurist, writer 1994 Detained and forced to leave China in 1994; travelled to and sought political asylum in Australia in 2004.
Zeng Jinyan blogger 2006 suspected of harming state security Under house arrest with husband Hu Jia from August 2006 - March 2007; currently under house arrest again, since May 2007.[12]
Zhao Changqing teacher of history 1989 Tiananmen activities Released after about 1/2 year.
1998 workers rights activity 3 years
2002 attempted subversion of state power 5 years Sentenced 2003.[13]
Zhao Lianhai food safety worker, activist 2009 inciting social disorder 2.5 years Sentenced 2010.[14][15]


Critical view

In some cases, Chinese artists - and especially independent filmmakers - might seek the label of "dissident" for themselves to gain reflexive approval, sympathy, and attention for their work from the West. This phenomenon has led to what Sinologist Geremie Barmé calls the "symbiotic relationship between dissidents and the foreign media".[16]

See also


  1. ^ "Ai Weiwei's whereabouts still unknown". RTHK English News. 10 April 2011. Retrieved April 14, 2011. 
  2. ^ Amnesty International, Chen Pokong (30) and other prisoners at Guangzhou No. 1 Reeducation-Through-Labour CenterAmnesty International information note on Chen Pokong[permanent dead link], 7 December 1994, accessed June 31, 2013
  3. ^ Chinese woman, Cheng Jianping, sentenced to a year in labor camp over Twitter post Aliyah Shahid, 2010 11 18, NY Daily News, via www.nydailynews.com on 2010 11 18
  4. ^ Human Rights in China, "Torture Account by Missing Rights Defense Lawyer Gao Zhisheng," February 8, 2009
  5. ^ Jacobs, Andrew (March 28, 2010). "Chinese Activist Surfaces After a Year in Custody". The New York Times. Retrieved May 8, 2010. 
  6. ^ Bradsher, Keith (March 16, 2010). "China Fails to Dispel Mystery About Missing Dissident". The New York Times. Retrieved May 8, 2010. 
  7. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2010-04-03. Retrieved 2010-03-13. 
  8. ^ "China accused of 'tricking' dissidents into deportation". Aljazeera. 2015-12-29. Retrieved Feb 17, 2015. 
  9. ^ "About Shi Tao," Incorporating Responsibility 2008
  10. ^ "PEN International is delighted to announce the release of Chinese poet, journalist and PEN member Shi Tao, 15 months before the end of his 10-year sentence PEN International". www.pen-international.org. Retrieved 2017-05-14. 
  11. ^ Coonan, Clifford (April 20, 2007). "Chinese couple sue Yahoo! in US over torture case". The Independent. London. Retrieved May 8, 2010. 
  12. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2008-11-27. Retrieved 2010-03-13. 
  13. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2010-07-14. Retrieved 2010-03-13. 
  14. ^ Father of poisoned baby rallies parents in tainted-milk fight - thestar.com, Bill Schiller, Asia Bureau, Toronto Star, via www.thestar.com on 2010 11 10
  15. ^ China food safety activist given 2​12 years Archived November 14, 2010, at the Wayback Machine. Christopher Bodeen, Associated Press – Wed Nov 10, 2:41 am ET, via news.yahoo.com on 2010 11 10
  16. ^ Ogden, Suzanne (2002). Inklings of Democracy in China. Harvard University Asia Center. p. 345. 

External links