Hong Kong Human Rights Monitor

Call for Release of Xi Yang

These days, everyone is counting the number of days until Hong Kong reverts back to Chinese rule. Trying to guess the identity of the first Chief Executive of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region is a popular pastime. Many people are also worried that after 1997, Hong Kong may not be able to enjoy press freedom and freedom of speech.

These worries did not start only recently. From the day Ming Pao Reporter Xi Yang was arrested, Hong Kong people's apprehension has been heightened.

Xi Yang was arrested in Beijing on September 27, 1991. On January 28, 1994 he was convicted in the Beijing Municipal Intermediate People's Court for "spying and stealing state secrets" and sentenced to 12 years in prison, with two additional years of suspension of political rights.

What constitutes "spying and stealing state secrets"? On April 11, 1993 Xin Hua (New China News Agency) reported in detail Xi Yang's crime: he did not apply through the normal channel for permission to report and instead obtained from Bank of China employee Tian Ye (sentenced to 15 years at the same trial) a large amount of state economic and financial secrets which he published in Ming Pao. This supposedly caused serious economic loss to China.

Xin Hua also reported in the same article that both Xi and Tian were very secretive in carrying out their activities. They only communicated through beepers, thus concealing their contacts.

However, what were characterised as financial and economic secrets were not secrets at all. Many Hong Kong newspapers, including those controlled by China, have published similar reports. Xi and Tian's so-called "secretive behavior" violated no law, and certainly cannot be accepted as a plausible reason for such long incarcerations. On the contrary, Xin Hua's report confirmed that Xi did not pay for his source material, nor did he use the information for self-serving economic activities.

Hong Kong people are used to a high degree of freedom. Freedoms of the press and information are the cornerstones of Hong Kong's development. Anxiety and panic set in whenever these freedoms are threatened. The reverberations from Xi's case is a typical example.

Nowadays, many in Hong Kong are worried about the future. They hope that the soon-to-be-appointed Chief Executive will protect their interests. It is urgently necessary to boost their confidence.

Xi Yang's life is now miserable. He has arrhythmia, skin infections, and recurrent headaches. He cannot function properly. His situation is a constant cause of concern for Hong Kong people. His immediate release will be a most welcomed confidence booster.

A Ming Pao Reporter

1996/1997 (c) Hong Kong Human Rights Monitor