Amnesty International Group 22 Pasadena/Caltech News
Volume XXI Number 1, January 2013


  Thursday, January 24, 7:30 PM. Monthly 
Meeting. We meet at the Caltech Y, Tyson 
House, 505 S. Wilson Ave., Pasadena. (This is 
just south of the corner with San Pasqual. 
Signs will be posted.) We will be planning our 
activities for the coming months. Please join 
us! Refreshments provided.

  Tuesday, February 12, 7:30 PM.  Letter 
writing meeting at Caltech Athenaeum, corner 
of Hill and California in Pasadena. The 
Rathskeller is in the Athenaeum basement; 
take the stairs to the right of the main 
entrance. Look for the table with the Amnesty 
sign. Please join us to write actions on human-
rights violations around the world. This 
informal gathering is a great way for 
newcomers to get acquainted with Amnesty!

  Sunday, February 17, 6:30 PM. Rights 
Readers Human Rights Book Discussion 
Group. This month we discuss The Garlic 
Ballads by Nobel laureate Mo Yan.


Hi everyone,

Hope you all had nice holidays and are rested 
up for the new year!

Rob and I went to Corvallis, Oregon, to see his 
family, and my sister came down later from 
Northern California after Christmas.  We had a 
nice visit.

Group 22 had our 5th(?) annual letter writing 
marathon at a local coffee shop in December on 
Human Rights Day, which was a big success - a 
total of 123 cards and letters were written to 
prisoners of conscience all over the world. 
Thanks to those who came to write letters and 
those who organized it.

Did any of you see the Rose Parade? The 
Tournament of Roses president this year was a 
nurse, Sally Bixby.  Did you see the nurses' float, 
"A Healing Place"?  Nurses from all over 
Southern California worked on the float, 
including some of my school nurse co-workers. 
See this link: 

Con carino,

Human Rights Book Discussion Group

Keep up with Rights Readers at

Next Rights Readers meeting:

  Sunday, February 17 6:30 pm  

  Vroman's Bookstore 
  695 E. Colorado, Pasadena

  The Garlic Ballads
  By Mo Yan

Book Review:
An epic tale, banned in China, that tells of 
ordinary lives brutally destroyed by greed--
official and familial. Setting his story in an 
agricultural region of China, Mo Yan (Red 
Sorghum, 1993) takes a seemingly unlikely 
subject, the 1987 glut of garlic, and transforms it 
into fictional gold as the personal valiantly 
battles the pervasive political. Though recent 
reforms have restored private ownership of 
land, at a price, the farmers of Paradise County 
are still subordinate to Communist officialdom, 
which, having jettisoned much of its ideology, 
now uses its power just as savagely to enrich 
itself. Moving back and forth in time, in prose 
that is often lyrical, always vivid, the story is as 
much about love as it is about the greed that 
corrupts families as well as officials. Determined 
to punish the farmers, who'd rioted after a 
lengthy and futile wait to sell their garlic to the 
county government, the police arrest farmer Gao 
Yang, as well as the Fang family matriarch, 
Fourth Aunt. They also briefly capture another 
farmer, Gao Ma. As the three try to survive 
either in prison or on the lam, they remember 
the past. Gao Yang tells of being frequently 
beaten and harassed during his childhood and 
early manhood for being born into a family of 
the then-reviled landowning class; Fourth Aunt 
recalls her greedy sons' cruelty to her only 
daughter, Jinju, and how her husband was 
callously run over by an official, who refused to 
pay any damages; and Gao Ma relives the 
terrible beatings Jinju received after she'd run 
away with him, because her brothers wanted 
her to marry a man with money. With a litany of 
horrors so long and so unsparing -- if 
unsurprising -- consolations are rare. An 
affecting vindication of the human spirit under 
extreme duress  -- from a writer of tremendous 
power and sympathy.

Author Biography

 Mo Yan (a pseudonym for Guan Moye) was 
born in 1955 and grew up in Gaomi in Shandong 
province in north-eastern China. His parents 
were farmers. As a twelve-year-old during the 
Cultural Revolution he left school to work, first 
in agriculture, later in a factory. In 1976 he 
joined the People's Liberation Army and during 
this time began to study literature and write. His 
first short story was published in a literary 
journal in 1981. 

In his writing Mo Yan draws on his youthful 
experiences and on settings in the province of 
his birth. This is apparent in his novel Hong 
gaoliang jiazu (1987, in English Red Sorghum 
1993). The book consists of five stories that 
unfold and interweave in Gaomi in several 
turbulent decades in the 20th century, with 
depictions of bandit culture, the Japanese 
occupation and the harsh conditions endured by 
poor farm workers. Red Sorghum was 
successfully filmed in 1987, directed by Zhang 
Yimou. The novel Tiantang suantai zhi ge (1988, 
in English The Garlic Ballads 1995) and his 
satirical Jiuguo (1992, in English The Republic of 
Wine 2000) have been judged subversive because 
of their sharp criticism of contemporary Chinese 

Through a mixture of fantasy and reality, 
historical and social perspectives, Mo Yan has 
created a world reminiscent in its complexity of 
those in the writings of William Faulkner and 
Gabriel Garcia Marquez, at the same time 
finding a departure point in old Chinese 
literature and in oral tradition. In addition to his 
novels, Mo Yan has published many short 
stories and essays on various topics, and despite 
his social criticism is seen in his homeland as 
one of the foremost contemporary authors.

Gao Zhisheng

by Joyce Wolf

Group 22?s adopted prisoner of conscience Gao 
Zhisheng was one of Amnesty's featured cases 
in the December Write-a-thon. As we wrote our 
own letters for Gao, it was heartening to think of 
the thousands of cards and letters from Amnesty 
activists around the world that would soon be 
arriving for him at Shaya Prison in remote 
northwestern China. 

And possibly that flood of letters had a real 
effect! On January 12 Gao was permitted a brief 
visit by family members, the only contact since 
March, 2012. Although the visit was very brief 
and subject to many constraints, it is still very 
encouraging to know that he is still alive and 
apparently in reasonably good health.

Here are excerpts from a Radio Free Asia article.

 Family Visits Jailed Lawyer
 The family of jailed lawyer Gao Zhisheng, one of 
 China's highest-profile dissidents, has visited him 
 at a remote jail in China's northwestern region of 
 Xinjiang, but was forbidden from speaking to him 
 freely, his wife said on Friday.

 Gao, who has defended clients in politically 
 sensitive cases, was allowed a 30-minute meeting 
 on Jan. 12 with his fourth younger brother and 
 Geng Yunjia, the father of Gao's wife Geng He, 
 who now lives in the United States with the 
 couple's two children.

 But the two men were warned not to ask him 
 about his case or about conditions inside the jail.
 "We didn't ask anything about his situation, 
 because it has to do with politics," Geng Yunjia 
 said on Friday. "We stayed within the rules while 
 we were speaking to him. We just talked about 
 our lives. The prison rules said we had to do it 
 that way," he said, but declined to comment 

 Geng He said she found out about the visit only 
 after Gao's brother returned home from Xinjiang 
 this week, and that she was disappointed at the 
 strict controls set by the authorities.  "As soon as 
 he got to the prison, they told them a list of five or 
 six things he wasn't allowed to ask Gao Zhisheng, 
 including details of his case, how he was doing in 
 the prison here, none of that," she said. "If they 
 asked him, they would terminate the meeting 
 immediately, whether it had gone on for one 
 minute or 10."

 The authorities left no means for the family to 
 contact the prison, nor did they answer questions 
 about a possible release date for Gao, Geng said.
 'She said that the conversation remained limited 
 to family news, but that Gao seemed reasonably 
 well.  "His brother noticed [Gao] had chapped 
 skin around his lips, and told him to drink more 
 water," Geng said. "He walked without 
 assistance, and it didn't look as if there was any 
 problem with his mobility," she added. "He 
 seemed fairly alert, as well."
 "They told me his head was shaved."

 Beijing-based rights activist Hu Jia, who recently 
 launched an online campaign to send greetings 
 cards to Gao for Christmas, said activists were 
 continuing to send cards for Gao ahead of 
 Chinese New Year. Hu said it didn't matter 
 whether Gao received them or not, because the 
 number of cards he received would make the 
 authorities treat him with more respect and 
 improve his conditions inside the jail.

 "These sorts of things always benefit political 
 prisoners," Hu said.  "It's not just about giving 
 encouragement to the prisoner, but also about 
 sending a message to the prison staff, and maybe 
 making them more restrained, which can improve 
 the treatment and safety of political prisoners in 


So let's do what Hu Jia said and keep sending 
cards! (Chinese New Year is Feb 10, 2013.)

Gao Zhisheng, Shaya Prison
P.O. Box 15, Sub-box 16
Shaya County, Aksu Prefecture
Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region, 842208
People's Republic of China

By Stevi Carroll

Happy 2013!  May joy and many opportunities 
for civic engagement come our way.

* The Death Penalty in 2012 and beyond

According to the Death Penalty Information 
Center website, forty-two people were executed 
in the United States during 2012, not quite one a 

The state with the highest rate is Texas with 15 
people while Delaware and Idaho executed one 
person each.  Here's the list: Texas 15, Arizona 6, 
Oklahoma 6, Mississippi 6, Florida 3, Ohio 2, 
South Dakota 2, Delaware 1, and Idaho 1.

On the bright side, the following states now do 
not have the death penalty:  Alaska (1957), 
Connecticut- 11 people still on death row (2012), 
Hawaii (1957), Illinois (2011), Iowa (1965), Maine 
(1887), Massachusetts (1984), Michigan (1846), 
Minnesota (1911), New Jersey (2007), New 
Mexico two people still on death row (2009), 
New York (2007), North Dakota (1973), Rhode 
Island (1984), Vermont (1964), West Virginia 
(1965), Wisconsin (1853), and the District of 
Columbia (1981). 

From the Death Penalty Information Center we 

* Many States to Consider Death Penalty 
Abolition and Reform in 2013

As legislative sessions begin across the country, 
legislators in several states have proposed bills 
to abolish or reform the death penalty in 2013. In 
Alabama, Sen. Hank Sanders will introduce bills 
to abolish the death penalty, or alternatively to 
institute a series of reforms. "I believe the death 
penalty is not only unproductive but counter-
productive," he said. Texas will also consider a 
number of death penalty reform bills, including 
restrictions on certain types of evidence, and the 
creation of an innocence commission. Colorado 
Sen. Claire Levy is drafting a bill to abolish the 
death penalty. "We have increasing concerns 
about the possibility of executing an innocent 
person," said Levy. Kentucky Rep. Carl Rollins 
plans to propose a bill to replace the death 
penalty with a sentence of life without parole. In 
Maryland, Gov. Martin O'Malley has voiced 
support for a bill to end the death penalty and 
direct some of the money saved to murder 
victims' families. New Hampshire's Gov. 
Margaret Hassan also supports abolition, and a 
bill is likely to be introduced in that state. In 
Oregon, where Gov. John Kitzhaber instituted a 
moratorium on executions for the remainder of 
his term, Rep. Mitch Greenlick plans to 
introduce a bill beginning the process of 
abolishing the death penalty. (source:

Hope for the abolition of the death penalty 

* The Supremes and the Death Penalty

Clarence Thomas may be the silent member of 
the Supreme Court but in January he had 
something to write about the death penalty.  The 
Supremes unanimously rejected indefinite 
delays in the federal review of death penalty 
cases when inmates are mentally incompetent to 
assist their attorneys.  Justice Thomas wrote that 
the appeals are based on facts that already have 
been established, and the attorneys can address 
any legal errors and put together any relevant 
arguments without their clients assistance.  He 
went on to say,  "Where there is no reasonable 
hope of competence, a stay is inappropriate and 
merely frustrates the state's attempts to defend 
its presumptively valid judgment."

While I scratch my head about what this all 
means, I'm pretty sure competence doesn't have 
to be a given for a person to be executed.

* Acquittal for Seth Penalver

On December 21, 2012, Seth Penalver was 
acquitted of all charges in the triple murders of 
Casimir Sucharski, Sharon Anderson, and Marie 
Rogers.  Mr. Penalver spent 13 years on death 
row before his conviction was overturned last 
December.  According to an article in Sun 
Sentinel, "Penalver wept, got off his chair, 
kneeled in apparent prayer, stood up, took deep 
breaths and repeatedly embraced defense 
attorney Hilliard Moldof, who also wept."

* George Allen free after 30 years in prison

George Allen left a Jefferson City, Missouri, 
courthouse in November 2012 a free man after 
serving 30 years in prison for a rape and murder 
he did not commit.  Lawyers from the Midwest 
Innocent Project worked on his case.  Because 
one of the jurors in his case had a family 
emergency that caused the juror's dismissal, the 
sentencing in Mr. Allen's trial couldn't be held 
and the state was forced to waive the death 
penalty.  Reviewing the DNA collected at the 
crime site proved Mr. Allen did not commit the 
crime and had he been sentenced to death 30 
years ago, he may never have lived to see the 
day of his release.

* February 23-March 10, 2013 Weeks of Action to 
End the Death Penalty

This Spring decisions will be made in the Reggie 
Clemons case -- a Missouri death penalty case 
characterized by poor defense lawyering, and 
police and prosecutor misconduct. Also this 
Spring, at least four states will be pushing 
abolition bills, and law schools and the legal 
community will be marking the 50th 
anniversary of Gideon v. Wainwright, the 
landmark U.S. Supreme Court decision that 
guaranteed the right to a lawyer in criminal 
cases for all defendants. It is for these reasons 
that Inadequate counsel will be the theme of our 
2013 Death Penalty Action Weeks (February 23-
March 10).

* Commuted to Life Without Parole

January 2013
	16	Ronald Post		Ohio

* Stays of Execution

December 2012
	11	Roy Ward		Indiana 
	12	Rigoberto Avila	Texas

January 2013
	8	Mark Spotz		Pennsylvania
	16	Ronald Post		Ohio

* Executions

December 2012
	4	George Ochoa		Oklahoma
				3-drug lethal injection
	5	Richard Stokley		Arizona
				1-drug lethal injection
	11	Manuel Pardo		Florida
				3-drug lethal injection

January 2013
	16	Robert Gleason*		Virginia
* volunteer

(JANUARY 2013)

UAs     26
POC      3 
Total   29

To add your letters to the total contact

Amnesty International Group 22
The Caltech Y
Mail Code C1-128
Pasadena, CA 91125