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China Releases Ailing Dissident

November 6, 1996

BEIJING (AP) _ China released a cancer-stricken dissident from prison Wednesday, in an apparent bid to appease the United States two weeks before a visit by Secretary of State Warren Christopher.

The release of Chen Ziming, jailed as an organizer of massive protests around Tiananmen Square in 1989, follows the 11-year prison term handed out to another dissident, Wang Dan, last week.

Chen’s family had appealed for the 44-year-old dissident’s release so he could seek treatment for cancer and other ailments.

Although the government freed Chen on medical parole, the move appeared calculated to counter criticism of Wang’s sentence and brighten the mood for Christopher’s Nov. 20-21 visit. Christopher, who was invited by Vice Premier Qian Qichen when the two met in Indonesia in July, is expected to raise human rights issues, among other topics.

``It’s the old good-cop, bad-cop routine,″ said Robin Munro, a China researcher for New York-based Human Rights Watch/Asia.

``First, they sentence Wang Dan on ludicrous charges. ... Then, as a kind of placatory offering, apparently to the Americans, they allow Chen Ziming out on medical parole.″

``It would be an outrage if the U.S. government accepts this as enough,″ Munro said.

Wang, a student leader of the 1989 pro-democracy demonstrations that were crushed by tanks and troops, was convicted Oct. 30 of trying to overthrow the government. The United States and a number of other nations strongly disapproved of the verdict.

After being freed from a prison in Beijing, Chen returned home Wednesday morning saying he was tired, according to his younger brother, Chen Ziping.

``We are very happy,″ the brother said. ``Chen Ziming’s situation has improved.″

But family members were unsure how long his freedom would last.

After being sentenced to 13 years for organizing the 1989 protests, Chen was freed on medical parole in 1994 following his diagnosis of cancer. But he was rearrested a year later after staging a one-day hunger strike to mark the anniversary of the army crackdown. Police said at the time that if he was healthy enough to fast, he was healthy enough to finish his prison term.

Chen appeared to be under heavy surveillance after his release Wednesday. Hong Kong television reporters who tried visiting his home Wednesday night said they were detained by as many as 10 police officers and held for more than two hours.

Repeated phone calls to Chen’s were unanswered.

Chen was a founder of the Beijing Social Economic Studies Institute that, in the 1980s, conducted some of Communist China’s first social surveys and produced studies on political and economic reform.

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