No Word of Chinese Dissident Famous Pro-Democracy Writer Vanished into Gulag a Year Ago

Article excerpt

China's most famous dissident, Wei Jingsheng, disappeared into the Chinese gulag one year ago Saturday. Today, his situation remains a mystery.

So far, there has been no official word of his alleged crime or his condition.

Wei was first arrested in 1979 for writing powerful essays demanding democratic reform. He served 14 1/2 years of a 15-year prison sentence and was freed in 1993, when China tried without success to win a bid to host the Olympics in 2000.

In the six months of freedom that followed, Wei wrote pro-democracy essays for publication abroad and gave interviews to foreign reporters, refusing to be reined in by police orders to keep silent. He was picked up by police on April 1, 1994, and has not been seen or heard from since, even by family members.

Wei's outspokenness and long prison sentence made him among the best known of China's thousands of political prisoners.

Last October, 58 members of the U.S. Congress nominated Wei for this year's Nobel Peace Prize. More than 150 other people worldwide have supported the nomination, the Robert F. Kennedy Center for Human Rights said in a statement.

The Washington-based center has organized a letter-writing campaign on Wei's behalf but said it had received no response from the Chinese government to requests for information about him.

Wei and another longtime Chinese pro-democracy activist, Ren Wanding, were given the Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights Award last year.

Officials refuse to disclose his whereabouts or say what crimes Wei has been accused of committing. …