CHINA is set to release the last prisoner held in connection with the 1989 Tiananmen Square protests later this year, a U.S. rights group has revealed.
According to the Dui Hua Foundation, Miao Deshun is the last known prisoner serving a sentence for offences committed on 4 June 1989, when 1,600 Chinese protesters took to the streets for a mass pro-democracy demonstration.
Miao, who was 25 at the time of his arrest, was charged with arson along with four of his colleagues for allegedly throwing a basket onto a burning tank.
All four were sentenced to death with a two-year reprieve. Miao did not appeal his sentence, and in 1998, his sentence was reduced to 20 years.
Since then, his sentence has been reduced twice for good behavior by the Beijing Number One Intermediate Court, and Miao is expected to be released in October.
— Dui Hua (@duihua) May 3, 2016
The foundation noted that Miao, now 51, suffers from schizophrenia and hepatitis B, and has spent time in solitary confinement.
Executive director of Dui Hua, John Kamm, said in a statement: “We welcome this news, and express the hope that he will receive the care he needs to resume a normal life after spending more than half of it behind bars.”
Zhang Yansheng, also convict from the Tiananment protests, told Radio Free Asia he had known Miao whilst in prison and said the middle-aged man would struggle to comprehend “today’s China”.
Zhang, who was released on parole in 2003, said he still has a hard time adjusting to life beyond bars and suspects Miao would have an even more difficult experience.
He added that Miao’s “severe mental health issues” would further hinder his ability to resume living normally.
The Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) reports that Chinese authorities have not confirmed the news of Miao’s release.
The 1989 crackdown on pro-democracy protesters saw Chinese troops reportedly killing hundreds of civilians, with some estimating the number to be over 1,000.
According to The Guardian, families of those killed by the troops have yet to receive any form of compensation from the government.
Public remembrance of the killings is also outlawed. A group of Chinese students living in Western countries called for an inquiry into the matter in May 2015.