Liu Jiacai:From Labour Activist to New Citizens Movement, an Engineer that was Twice Convicted of Inciting Subversion

He was suddenly waken up by a prison guard, just as the clock struck midnight.

“You can go.”

As he was handling the paperwork for his release, the prison warden asked him once again the question that have been put to him countless time, “Do you admit your guilt?”

He was sentenced to 5 years imprisonment, and spent the whole 5 years in jail without any sentence reduction, simply because he refused to repent. He answered, without hesitation,

“I have committed no crime before, and I will continue to fight in the future.”

Liu Jiacai, from Hubei Province, originally has a stable job in a state owned enterprise. However from about 1998, he saw more and more of his colleagues being unceremoniously dismissed without protection or compensation. He decided to come forth to defend the rights of his fellowmen, attempting to organise an independent trade union to represent the workers’ interests. They eventually succeeded in getting certain benefits for the dismissed workers, however Liu, as the organiser of the “troubles”, must be punished. In 2001, he was convicted of inciting subversion of state power, and sentenced to two years of control (a form of sentencing that involves community supervision and restriction of movement outside of prison).

Henceforth, his identity as a political prisoner makes it impossible for him to lead a normal life. He was forced to leave his home town, eventually landing a job as an engineer in Yunnan Province. In his spare time, he was active on the internet, meeting netizens of similar minds and commenting on various social political issues. His signature on G+, was “End one-party dictatorship, build a democratic China”. As such he was constantly being monitored and harassed by the national security, and at one stage even had his electricity and internet cut off. In the end, his employer was forced to sack him under the pressure of the authorities. He returned home, jobless but not defeated.

That was 2012, when the New Citizens Movement was in its heyday. Liu, now with even more free time on his hand, began to organise offline activities. From December 2012 to May 2013, he organised five “same-city dinner gatherings”, during which citizens came together to discuss politics and non-violent social movement. He gifted New Citizen Movement’s T-shirts and badges to friends. In April 2013, he and some friends hold placards in from of Yichang Middle Court, calling for the release of prisoners of conscience. In the gathering in May, he suggested meeting at the Yichang Bijiang Park on June 4th, wearing black and lighting candles in memory of the June 4th Tiananmen Massacre. He sent emails to friends titled “Wearing black on June 4th”, calling for articles to commemorate June 4th.

Yet before that day had come, he was “reported” to the police. The police raided his home on 31st May, confiscating his computer and New Citizens T-shirts. They were forced to abandon their planned commemoration.

That was just the beginning of his misfortune. A country-wide suppression of the New Citizens Movement was then in full swing, and Liu Jiacai was inevitably swept up. In July, the initiator of the New Citizens Movement, Xu Zhiyong, was criminally detained. In August, the authorities arrested Liu Jiacai on the pretext that he had shared an untrue Weibo (Chinese version of Twitter).

After his arrest, he frankly admitted to the police. “My aim in organising those activities was to push for political change in our country, such that constitutional democracy can be put in place, that different political parties can compete with each other, and that everyone can have a vote to vote for their own government.”

Liu Jiacai was not as well known than other leaders of the New Citizens Movement; he received much less attention and in consequence, a harsher sentence. Xu Zhiyong was eventually charged only with disrupting public order, and sentenced to 4 years imprisonment after an so called open trial; Liu Jiacai was instead charged with inciting subversion of state power, and sentenced to 5 years imprisonment after a blatantly closed door trial. He was subjected to physical punishment in jail and is in poor health.


During his imprisonment, his wife’s corner shop was demolished by the authorities, and his father and mother both passed away; however he had heard nothing about that inside. His family once tried to plead with the authorities to let him out briefly to visiting his dying parents, but was flatly turned down. When his wife went visiting him in prison, she always told him that everyone at home was doing very well, very well….

On 11 August 2018, he finally walked out of prison, and only then learnt of all the heartbreaking news. That morning, he kneeled before the graves of his parents, crying his heart out.

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