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Dissident Calls for China Releases

October 26, 1997

BEIJING (AP) _ A veteran democracy campaigner called on Chinese authorities Sunday to release 12 dissidents, saying people should not be jailed for their political views.

Bao Ge’s written appeal coincided with the departure of Chinese President Jiang Zemin for the United States. Several dissidents and their families have appealed for releases ahead of the state visit, the first by a Chinese leader in 12 years.

Bao, released in June after spending three years in a labor camp for political activism, said people should be allowed to exercise freedoms supposedly guaranteed in China’s constitution, including freedom of speech, demonstration and association.

``No citizen should be detained and persecuted for peacefully exercising these rights and freedoms or putting forward different political opinions,″ the Shanghai-based dissident said in a letter to China’s Justice Ministry that was faxed to reporters in Beijing.

Bao called for the release of 12 people, including Wang Dan and Wei Jingsheng, two of China’s most famous dissidents serving lengthy jail terms for subversion.

There have been no signs in the run-up to Jiang’s eight-day tour of the United States that Chinese authorities plan to free any dissidents soon.

At a news conference Saturday, when asked whether he intended to release Wei Jingsheng or other dissidents as a goodwill gesture, Jiang denied they were jailed for their views. Reading from notes, he insisted the Chinese constitution protected freedom of expression.

``Their cases were handled not because of their political views that they held but because they have violated the criminal law of China,″ Jiang said.

Bao is one of China’s few remaining active democracy campaigners. Most of the rest have been imprisoned, forced into exile, or harassed into silence.

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