My artist friend Wu Yuren, detained on trumped-up criminal charges for more than 10 months, was abruptly released "on parole" this weekend. He was pulled from his cell without warning - at about this time, midnight in China - to be prepared for release, spent the night in a "half-way house" surrounded by police officers, and was reunited with his family on Sunday afternoon.
He is under strict supervision, required to surrender his passport, and forbidden to have any contact with the press, or with other perceived "subversives".
And, given the extremely harsh and thoroughgoing crackdown on dissent we are currently suffering here - unprecedented, according to many, in the past two decades - we are nervous that his freedom might be arbitrarily snatched away from him again at any moment.
His trial is still not concluded: although the judges finished hearing the "evidence" more than two months ago, no verdict has yet been given or sentence passed.
But, for now, he is a free man again. It is very good to have him back. His six-year-old daughter Hannah, the brightest little girl I know, is especially delighted.
Update: After less than a week Wu Yuren was "banished" from Beijing - the police insisted he leave the capital and go back to his hometown in Jiangsu province. It's probably good for his recovery from the ordeal of incarceration to be spending time with his family, and away from the stressful environment of Beijing; although it does mean that he is once again separated from his wife and daughter (they'll go and visit, but can't leave Beijing full-time). And of course, there has still been no clarification of what the terms of his "parole" are supposed to be, or when it will ever be lifted. We're hoping that his case might be quietly dropped eventually; but for now, he's living under the threat of being arbitrarily returned to prison at any moment. And with the current wave of government paranoia about possible 'dissidents', this situation could drag on for months.
Further update: Well, they didn't insist on his permanent removal to Jiangsu. He was able to quietly return after a couple of weeks. He's keeping his head down, and slowly getting healthy again.
Additional (hopefully final) update: Wu's 'parole' (the basis and parameters of which were, I think, never explained) was finally lifted, and his passport returned to him just over a year after his release, on April 19th, 2012. It seems all the charges against him have been dropped. But, of course, he's never going to receive any explanation or apology for what happened to him.