Dissident's Wife Breaks Silence as China's Rights Record Is Tested

Article excerpt

MEMBERS OF the US Congress will debate a Bill on China next week which would grant Peking the same trade relations that the United States extends to nearly every other nation.

Approval of the Bill would ease China's entry into the World Trade Organisation but critics claim that human rights violations should bar Peking from the global trade club. They should ask Zhang Hong.

Today marks the first anniversary of the detention of Ms Zhang's husband, Jiang Qisheng. A former student leader on Tiananmen Square, his case is still pending, his sentence postponed. His crime? Petitioning for a candlelight vigil to commemorate the 10th anniversary of the massacre.

"My husband is a rational and sensible man," Ms Zhang told The Independent. "Everything he has said and written is within the law. I don't know why they don't release him." Ms Zhang and her 18-year- old son will not be lighting candles tonight - "in China we only remember the dead with candles" - though Mr Jiang has been as silent as the grave. In violation of Chinese law, Peking police have denied Ms Zhang all contact with her husband.

On the eve of the crucial Congress vote, Zhang Hong is risking her own liberty to speak out. While some Chinese dissidents abroad have joined American trade unions, religious and environmental groups in opposing the normalisation of trade and Chinese accession to the WTO, Ms Zhang echoes other mainland liberals in calling for greater international dealings with China.

"From an objective point of view, entering the WTO must compel the Chinese government towards more democracy, whether it wants to or not," Ms Zhang said. "Under the WTO, the Chinese economy must accord with international practices. Slowly our thought and culture will also be influenced. …