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World - Asia/Pacific

Chinese exile believed detained, activists report

January 12, 1999
Web posted at: 2:09 AM EST (0709 GMT)

BEIJING (AP) -- A Chinese dissident who tried to return home from New York has disappeared and is believed to be in the custody of the China police, a rights group and U.S.-based Chinese exiles said Monday.

Zhou Yongjun made hasty calls on Dec. 21 to a friend and his wife in New York, saying police were about to arrest him and he needed a lawyer, the Information Center of Human Rights and Democratic Movement in China said.

Friends and family did not know where he was calling from and have not heard from him since, the Hong Kong-based group said.

Zhou, 31, helped lead the 1989 democracy demonstrations in Tiananmen Square. He was imprisoned for two years after the protest was violently suppressed by the military.

Last month, Zhou had traveled to Hong Kong and was refused entry into the rest of China at the border city of Shenzhen, the group said. It added he then talked to friends in Hong Kong about sneaking into China.

Zhou wanted to do business and see his parents in southwestern Sichuan province, it said.

China's Foreign Ministry did not immediately answer a telephoned question about Zhou's whereabouts.

Chinese authorities are believed to have a "black list" of overseas-based dissidents and foreigners to be barred from China because of their political activities.

He kept a low profile since he moved to the United States in 1993 and began to publish a Chinese magazine, according to a statement from the Free China Movement, a Washington-based lobbying group of Chinese exiles.

Police seized three exiled democracy campaigners who tried to sneak into China during the fall. One faces trial on a subversion charge, and the others were sentenced without trial to forced labor.

Copyright 1999 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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