China Frees More Political Prisoners, but Abuse Lingers

By Sheila Tefft, writer of The Christian Science Monitor | The Christian Science Monitor, May 25, 1993 | Go to article overview

China Frees More Political Prisoners, but Abuse Lingers


Sheila Tefft, writer of The Christian Science Monitor, The Christian Science Monitor


A MID the recent releases of some prominent Chinese activists, the wife of dissident Wang Juntao has called for international pressure to win his freedom.

Hou Xiaotian has urged the United States to make a specific appeal for the release of her husband, who is imprisoned for thirteen years for his role in the 1989 pro-democracy demonstrations in Tiananmen Square.

Mr. Wang suffers from heart and liver disease and has threatened to go on a hunger strike on June 4, the anniversary of the Army suppression of the 1989 protests, if he is not released on bail for medical treatment and given the right of appeal.

"This hunger strike is very dangerous," she said in a Monitor interview. "I hope the US government will make my husband's case a special one, because his health is deteriorating."

Ms. Hou's urging comes as the Chinese government is reportedly ready to free one of its longest-held political prisoners, Xu Wenli. Mr. Xu has been kept in solitary confinement for 12 years for his involvement in China's Democracy Wall Movement of 1978-79.

Hong Kong human rights activist John Kamm and Western diplomats say Xu, a former electrician who edited the underground journal April 5 Forum and called for political change within the Communist system, will likely be released three years before the end of his 15-year sentence.

China has also confirmed the early release of Roman Catholic Bishop Wang Milu, jailed since 1983 and due to be freed in 1994.

Chinese political prisoners are being released in an effort by China to forestall US trade sanctions and win international backing for Beijing's bid to host the Summer Olympics in the year 2000, diplomats and human rights activists say.

President Clinton, who called for tougher action against Chinese human rights abuses during his presidential campaign, is expected to renew China's most-favored nation trading status this year, but attach conditions in June 1994 if Beijing's human rights record doesn't improve. …

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