Chinese activist released, heads for Rhode Island

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Posted by FCM on March 04, 2004 at 19:22:41:

Copyright 2004 Associated Press
All Rights Reserved

The Associated Press State & Local Wire

These materials may not be republished without the express written consent of The Associated Press

March 4, 2004, Thursday, BC cycle

4:42 PM Eastern Time

SECTION: State and Regional

LENGTH: 596 words

HEADLINE: Chinese activist released, heads for Rhode Island

BYLINE: By TERENCE CHEA, Associated Press Writer


A democracy activist who helped organize the 1989 Tiananmen Square protests was released by China and arrived in the United States on Thursday.

It was the third time in a week Beijing has acted on similar cases after lobbying from Washington.

Wang Youcai, 37, was given medical parole and left the Zhejiang No. 1 prison in southern China early in the day, said John Kamm, executive director of the Dui Hua Foundation, a rights group. He boarded a plane for the United States after bidding his family farewell.

Kamm said Wang arrived in San Francisco at mid-morning en route to his final destination, Providence, R.I. He was expected to arrive there Thursday night, to join Xu Wenli, another exiled dissident.

Wang was sentenced in 1998 to 11 years for activities related to his founding of the China Democracy Party.

Xu, another party founder, was released from prison in December 2002 and came with his wife to Rhode Island to join their daughter. He currently is a visiting senior fellow at Brown University.

Wang was also one of more than a dozen student leaders of the 1989 demonstrations that led to the Tiananmen Square military crackdown in which hundreds, perhaps thousands, died. He served a year in prison in 1990 on charges related to those activities.

Wang's release was the latest among cases the U.S. government has identified as priorities and was seen as a sign that the Chinese government was responding directly to Washington's human rights concerns.

"Clearly, I think, they have been releasing and giving sentence reductions to people who are considered priority cases by the United States," Kamm told The Associated Press. "It's part of an overall effort to get the human rights dialogue back on track."

Lian Shengde, a Chinese Democracy activist who was imprisoned with Wang following the Tiananmen crackdown and now lives in Virginia, said he believes China is trying to appease the United States.

"I think their purpose is very clear. They just want to release one or two to stop the U.S. effort to condemn China" for human rights violations, Lian said.

In its annual human rights report last month, the U.S. State Department said China was "backsliding on key human rights issues," citing arrests of democracy activists and individuals who discussed subjects on the Internet deemed sensitive by the government.

On Wednesday, Beijing cut one year from the eight-year prison term of Rebiya Kadeer, a Muslim businesswoman convicted of violating national security after she sent Chinese newspapers to her husband.

Last week, China released Phuntsog Nyidron, a Tibetan nun who was arrested in 1989 on charges of "counterrevolutionary propaganda and incitement" and sentenced to eight years in prison.

She was the last of the 14 Tibetan "singing nuns" who used a tape recorder smuggled into the prison to record songs about their love for their families and their homeland in 1993. Their sentences were extended after the tape was smuggled out of the prison.

The release of Wang, a physicist, had been pushed by U.S. Ambassador Clark T. Randt. It came one day after the U.S. House urged the Bush administration to move more forcefully on China's human rights record.

Two Republican lawmakers - Rep. Jim Leach of Iowa and Sen. Chuck Hagel of Nebraska - had also pushed for his release.

The Chinese Foreign Ministry had no immediate comment.

Wang was paroled in advance of the March 15 session of the U.N. Human Rights Commission in Geneva, where U.S. officials say they might sponsor a resolution criticizing China.


LOAD-DATE: March 4, 2004

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