A Political Prisoner Writes to American Friends

By John Kusumi

In recent months, Communist China has handed down an 11-year prison sentence for Liu Xiaobo, and a 9-year prison sentence for Zhou Yongjun. This signals that–more than 20 years after the Tiananmen Square crackdown began–the Chinese Communist Party (ostensible rulers of China) fully intend a “third decade” of Tiananmen-related persecution.

For each of these men, it is their third time as a political prisoner. And one of them sits in jail thinking of a COTO writer, yours truly.

Among the student leaders of the Tiananmen Square uprising, Zhou Yongjun is a big fish. He led the first contingent into the Square; he was the first President of the combined Student Union in the Square; and he was photographed by world news kneeling on the steps of the Great Hall of the People, when student leaders took a petition to China’s then-Premier Li Peng.

Zhou became an exile living in the United States, where he was welcome, but the flip side of being free in exile is that you can’t return to your homeland. (That’s not an international law; in fact, international law says that you CAN return to your homeland. But the Chinese government doesn’t follow international law.)

In 2008 a massive earthquake hit China’s Sichuan Province, where Zhou is from. Later in the year, he attempted a return to China to visit his aging and ailing parents. (All those years, Zhou’s application to return had been denied, and also his parents were not allowed to leave for a visit.)

The Hong Kong authorities nabbed him at the entry point with a false passport. At worst, that should have prompted his return to Macao or the United States or wherever was his most recent point of embarkation. Instead–and inexplicably–the Hong Kong authorities performed a “secret rendition” of handing Zhou over to authorities of Mainland China.

They trumped up some charges and gave him a nine-year prison sentence. (Meanwhile, in the United States, Zhou has two U.S. citizen children.)

American activist Betty Bandy wrote a letter to Zhou in jail, and it has now elicited a response.

He’s back in jail, but he remembers living in California and New York, and meeting activists such as Betty and myself, and doing a lot of activism.

I write this during a weekend when the China Democracy Party is having another conference in New York; so, the work of such activism continues, even without Zhou.

For what it’s worth, I want to provide excerpts from his letter below, and his mailing address in case anyone here wants to write to him. I am certain, at a time like this, that moral support is important and much appreciated!


I believe that God had pre-decided people’s fate and destiny even before we were born. What we can do is only following up the ryhthm of our life, enjoying the highs and enduring the lows, and always being grateful to life and its creator.

America is the most beautiful country in this world, with compassion and protection. She provided me the hope for a brand new life, and plenty of opportunities for me to grow, to improve myself and to enjoy my life harmoniously. During the years I was living in New York and California, I had been savoring every minute of my life with gratitude.

[Able to get along] by my own ability very well in the United States; nevertheless, why did I still risk my hard-earned life style for an impossible mission? My townships, friends, family members and even our rivals are now being puzzled by my adventures.

In my mind, a man is matured only when he truly and fully understands, accepts, and acts on his responsibilities to the others, to society, to his country and to his family; when his duty comes due, he shall not flee away or try to shun of it. My responsibility was rooted in my life since the time of my youth. The will of my people and trust of my friends have been driving me overwhelmingly. How could I be just at leisure in my snug roost? How could I just stay in the bosom of American freedom by myself?

…Thank you for your caring about China, caring about me and my fellow Chinese people. Your ability and passion are the fuel of our noble cause. We rely on people like you. I know that God is still preparing you for your real time. When the opportunity which truly matters to you comes, you will hold it, focus on it, and then you will be rejuvenated.

…Your words are important to me and your prayer for me is always powerful.

Thank you for telling me that many people love me and many people are helping me. It is those people who give me the morale to crawl over the black mountains, to survive the harsh time. I will live, live for those people. Being strictly detained here for such a long time, my physical health is the same as before, while my will to live grows stronger and stronger. Please pass my gratitude to our friends and people who are helping me, including John Kusumi, …and tell them my mailing address. I wish to hear from them, too.

Zhou Yongjun
# 1 Surveillance Cell
Suining Detention Center
Sichuan Province 629014

People’s Republic of China

Note: For the English-speaking world, Zhou took on the name Majer. Majer Zhou can be pronounced, “Major Joe.” Be aware that the Chinese Communist Party will screen his letters.


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