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China Dissident Wei Hopes To Return

November 19, 1997

NEW YORK (AP) _ Dissident Wei Jingsheng told Newsweek he left China only because of his illness and that he yearns to return to his homeland.

Wei, a pro-democracy activist who has spent more than 18 years in prison, was released Sunday on medical parole to get treatment for problems including high blood pressure, a heart condition and arthritis.

A tired-looking Wei said he agreed to enter exile only after being denied medical treatment.

``The authorities told me point blank: ’You can’t be let out into society. So if you want medical treatment you only have this one opportunity,‴ Wei told Newsweek on his flight to the United States. The interview was released Tuesday.

Wei, 47, was in good condition Tuesday in Detroit’s Henry Ford Hospital. He was scheduled to leave Thursday for New York, where he will have dental work done.

His medical conditions can be controlled with diet and medicine, said Dr. Thomas Royer, Henry Ford’s chief medical officer.

Wei said he hopes to return to China and his only concrete plans for his U.S. stay are to get treatment ``and make my health a bit better.″

China’s best-known political prisoner was taken from his glass-enclosed jail cell and allowed to spend a few hours with his family before being placed on a flight to Detroit on Sunday.

One of Wei’s sisters flew from Germany to Detroit to see her brother.

Wei Shanshan said Tuesday that she and her ailing brother are concerned about how their siblings are being treated back home.

``Our other brother and sister in China now are going through difficulties,″ Wei Shanshan said through an interpreter. ``My sister is a doctor and has been harassed and intimidated. ... I’m afraid she will lose her job.″

She said police detained her sister after Wei was beaten in jail because she refused to sign papers saying he was not hurt.

She thanked the American government for helping to secure her brother’s release, but said the United States needs to put more pressure on China for human rights violations.

Wei said during the Newsweek interview _ his first in three years _ that the differences between him and his late adversary Deng Xiaoping were not personal, but ideological.

``For many things he did, such as develop the economy, I was not only supportive but wanted to lend him a hand,″ Wei said. ``If I opposed him, it was over politics.″

Despite reports of routine beatings in prison, Wei says he was beaten ``only once.″ When the news leaked out, ``it brought pressure and they (prison officials) changed their methods.″

Wei was arrested in 1979 when he was among dozens of youths who mimeographed underground political journals and posted essays on a public wall in Beijing dubbed the Democracy Wall.

Sentenced to 15 years in prison, Wei was released in 1993 in the midst of China’s bid to be named host for the 2000 Summer Olympics. He was arrested again a few months later in Beijing after meeting with U.S. human rights officials. He was sentenced in 1995 to 14 years in prison on charges of subversion and conspiring to subvert the government.

Before being sentenced, he was held in a Beijing hotel under conditions ``worse than being in prison,″ he said. ``I had even less freedom.″

Asked if he thought current leader Jiang Zemin had the resolve to make changes in China, Wei said it was hard to tell.

``He came to power a long time ago. But until now, he hasn’t shown much determination,″ Wei said.

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