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The Last Person Arrested During The Tiananmen Square Protests Is Set To Be Released

Miao Deshun was locked up for throwing a basket into an already burning tank.

Posted on May 4, 2016, at 4:59 p.m. ET

For nearly three decades, Miao Deshun has been behind bars. He's said to be the last person arrested during the 1989 Tiananmen Square protests still in jail.

He has outlived many of his fellow jailed protesters and witnessed many others' release over the past 27 years. Put another way, he's been imprisoned for almost 10,000 days of what normally would be the most active period of his life.
Catherine Henriette / AFP / Getty Images

He has outlived many of his fellow jailed protesters and witnessed many others' release over the past 27 years. Put another way, he's been imprisoned for almost 10,000 days of what normally would be the most active period of his life.

How did the now 51-year-old man earn such a heavy sentence? He and four co-workers threw a basket into a burning tank sent by the Chinese army to crack down on students and other protesters.

Miao was convicted of arson in August 1989. He was at first sentenced to death with a two-year reprieve; it was later reduced to life sentence, and because of good behavior his sentence was further reduced multiple times.The middle-aged man is said to suffer from hepatitis B and schizophrenia and was transferred in 2003 to a solitary confinement unit primarily for old, sick, and disabled prisoners in on outskirts of Beijing.
Tommy Cheng / AFP / Getty Images

Miao was convicted of arson in August 1989. He was at first sentenced to death with a two-year reprieve; it was later reduced to life sentence, and because of good behavior his sentence was further reduced multiple times.

The middle-aged man is said to suffer from hepatitis B and schizophrenia and was transferred in 2003 to a solitary confinement unit primarily for old, sick, and disabled prisoners in on outskirts of Beijing.

But he may finally be freed later this year, according to San Francisco-based rights group Dui Hua.

Last known #Tiananmen prisoner to be released in October #China https://t.co/HAZ2WLeZ1l

Miao was among more than 1,500 people sentenced to prison during the protests while hundreds, if not thousands, died in the crackdown in Beijing and other cities.

Citizen participants generally received harsher punishments than students, assumably for their lower social status. Dui Ha said Miao has been cut off from contact with the outside world, including his family, for many years by his own request.
Manuel Ceneta / AFP / Getty Images

Citizen participants generally received harsher punishments than students, assumably for their lower social status. Dui Ha said Miao has been cut off from contact with the outside world, including his family, for many years by his own request.

Social media was surprisingly quiet over the news of his pending symbolic release. Chinese dissidents tend to be proactive in rights advocacy on Twitter, but Miao's name wasn't been brought up at all this year before the Dui Hua announcement.

#China last #JuneFourth prisoner Miao Deshun gets 1 yr sentence reduction, to be released in 2017 http://t.co/jPCfgfVO2y

Even after the announcement very few people retweeted the news. It was only after multiple outlets reported the news that it began to gain traction.

Wen Yunchao, a rights activist living in New York, agrees that the silence about Miao speaks volumes.

八九民运最后一名刑事犯苗德顺将在十月获悉的消息无人关注。八九民运,市民广泛参与,围堵军车被杀被抓,被捕者平均刑期要远高于被抓的学生,但媒体多聚焦于学生领袖,此后纪念活动也被学生领袖所垄断。学生领袖对“暴民”不愿多谈,甚至认为八九只是一场学运,不愿意承认这是一场全民民主运动。悲凉。

In a post on Twitter, Wen said former student leaders of the movement have avoided talking about non-student participants they've deemed "mobs", and lamented that the protests have been narrowly recognized as a students' movement.

The news went unmentioned in mainland China until Global Times, a state-run newspaper, commented, referring to Miao's days in prison as an unheard "note" in the “sad song of the democracy movement.”

"Indeed, it is sad that Miao spent 27 years in prison," the article said, but added that after "losing the bet to history, one's life" is basically inconsequential. It also referred to other Chinese dissidents who now live abroad in exile as "petty and low."Chinese news outlet Toutiao retweeted the article on Weibo but comments have been blocked.Beimeng Fu contributed reporting to this article.
weibo.com

"Indeed, it is sad that Miao spent 27 years in prison," the article said, but added that after "losing the bet to history, one's life" is basically inconsequential. It also referred to other Chinese dissidents who now live abroad in exile as "petty and low."

Chinese news outlet Toutiao retweeted the article on Weibo but comments have been blocked.

Beimeng Fu contributed reporting to this article.

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