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Group: Chinese Dissident Released

October 18, 2002

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BEIJING (AP) _ An ailing Chinese dissident once imprisoned on charges he helped organize the 1989 demonstrations on Tiananmen Square has been released from house arrest, a human rights group said Friday.

But authorities still may not be giving Chen Ziming total freedom since lifting his house arrest Oct. 10, the New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists said in a statement.

``He is still under tight surveillance, and security officers tail him when he leaves his home″ in Beijing, the group said.

Chen and a colleague, Wang Juntao, founded a private think tank in the 1980s that conducted pioneering social surveys and studied political and economic reform. They also published ``Economics Weekly,″ a journal that focused on the social consequences of China’s economic reforms.

Their work inspired many of the students and intellectuals who filled central Beijing in 1989. After weeks of protests, the military eventually crushed the demonstrations on June 3-4, 1989. At least several hundred people died.

Two years later, Chen and Wang were sentenced to 13 years in prison for being the ``black hands″ behind the Tiananmen protests. They were convicted of ``counterrevolutionary propaganda and incitement.″

Both were released in the spring of 1994. Chen remained free for more than a year until he staged a one-day hunger strike to commemorate the military assault that crushed the protests. Police returned him to prison, saying he was strong enough to serve out his sentence if he was healthy enough to fast.

In 1996, Chen, who has cancer, was released on medical parole. He has been under house arrest since.

China often has released political prisoners before major meetings with American officials. President Jiang Zemin is scheduled to visit the United States next week to meet with President Bush.

Update hourly