Chinese dissident released after 12-year jail term

A co-founder of a would-be Chinese opposition political party was released Monday after completing a 12-year prison term for endangering state security.

Qin Yongmin said he was transported to a police station in his home city of Wuhan early in the morning. Officers confiscated his prison writings and warned him not to speak to reporters or meet other dissidents before allowing him to return home, Qin told The Associated Press in a telephone interview.

"I tried to tell them it was illegal but they just stole everything I had written," Qin said.

Qin was given one of the harshest sentences among the organizers of the China Democracy Party who were charged with endangering state security after seeking to register the group in 1998.

China's ruling Communist Party brooks no opposition and the country's beleaguered dissidents have been under especially heavy pressure following the awarding of the Nobel Peace Prize to imprisoned democracy activist Liu Xiaobo.

Liu's wife, Liu Xia, and many of his colleagues are under a form of undeclared house arrest, a condition that isn't expected to end until after the Dec. 10 award ceremony in the Norwegian capital of Oslo.

Qin, 57, has a history of political activism dating back three decades, and had already spent a number of years in detention.

His punishment underscores the government's hostility toward political reform, even as the economy continues to develop and Chinese society opens further to outside influences.

Two other co-founders of the China Democracy Party, Wang Youcai and Xu Wenli, were sentenced to lengthy prison terms but exiled to the United States after a few years of confinement following intense diplomatic pressure from Washington.