“I still don’t understand why were punished so severely,” said Mr. Yang in an interview on Friday, shortly after his release from Beijing’s No. 2 Prison “We never broke any laws. I have no regrets.”
An Internet entrepreneur with a masters in mechanics, Mr. Yang, 37, gained his freedom on the same day as his friend, Zhang Honghai, 36, a freelance writer who was also a member of the New Youth Society, a study group that sought to tackle such topics as government corruption, democracy and the unrelenting poverty of rural China. The group rarely drew more than four or five participants and met sporadically during the course of a few months before its membership was detained.
The remaining two defendants, Xu Wei and Jin Haike, are scheduled to be released in 2010. Li Yizhou, a group member who informed against his friends, later fled to Thailand and tried to help them by submitting letters to the court saying his reports to security officials were exaggerated or outright lies.
The letters were rejected.
Read more about their arrest, via the Committee to Protect Journalists.