Democracy activists in China mark movement's 20th anniversary

Copyright © 1998
Copyright © 1998 The Associated Press


BEIJING (October 11, 1998 4:20 p.m. EDT -- Two Chinese democracy activists marked the 20th anniversary of the Democracy Wall movement Sunday by urging the release of activists in prisons and labor camps, a rights group reported.

Xu Wenli and Qin Yongmin, who were active in the 1978-79 period of free expression in Beijing, made the plea over the telephone in taped speeches, the Hong Kong-based Information Center of Human Rights and Democratic Movement in China said.

The messages were played at a conference in New York, where more than 100 exiled dissidents gathered Sunday, said Wang Bingzhang, spokesman of the U.S.-based Chinese Democracy and Justice Party.

Sunday was the anniversary of when the first poster went up on a wall in central Beijing that became a focal point for a period of unusually free political debate in China in which activists called for freedom, democracy and human rights.

Wei Jingsheng and other key writers in the movement were arrested and the movement was crushed in 1979. Wei spent all but six months of the next 18 years in prison until he was released in November and sent into exile.

The Hong Kong center said 12 dissidents who were involved in the Democracy Wall movement were arrested between 1989 and this year and are now in prison, labor camps or detention centers.

In New York, Wang said the activists' message expressed the wish that they would be able to celebrate future Democracy Wall anniversaries openly in China with exiled dissidents.

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