by Jerome Cohen
Less than ten days before Xi Jinping's visit to the US, scholar Guo Yushan (郭玉閃) and his colleague He Zhengjun (何正軍) have been released after almost a year’s detention (see the SCMP report here). Guo is now placed under "qubao houshen (取保候審)" (obtaining a guarantee pending further investigation), which is often a face-saving device for the Chinese authorities if they want to release someone during investigation.
This form of “release”, while not as severe as “home confinement”, means that for one year the released people are under various constraints including continuing stigma although they have not been found guilty of anything or even prosecuted. They cannot leave their city without police approval, they have to report regularly on their activities, they are often shadowed and can be taken back into custody and prosecuted at any moment. The police often silently drop the case at the end of the year unless they come up with evidence, but unauthorized surveillance often continues. Plainly, this is very different from a true release and termination of police interference with one’s life.
Guo is a great person. He found himself in the public eye after his role in rescuing the blind barefoot lawyer Chen Guangcheng became known, but in fact he's done much more than that. His research NGO, the Transition Institute (傳知行), has conducted a lot of good studies on social issues. As the Transition Institute was already shut down by the authorities, and Guo is now under "qubao houshen", it’s unlikely his research work can continue.