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HRIC Welcomes Release Of Xu Wenli But Warns Against Complacency

December 24, 2002

For Immediate Release

Human Rights in China (HRIC) welcomes the Chinese government’s release of dissident Xu Wenli and others. At the same time, HRIC calls on the Chinese government to genuinely improve its human rights situation rather than offer occasional gestures such as the release of dissidents to the international community.

The Chinese government today released well-known dissident Xu Wenli on
health grounds and immediately put him on a flight to the United States. Now aged sixty, Xu had been sentenced to 13 years in prison in 1998 because of his affiliation with the China Democracy Party. He had previously spent 12 years in prison, from 1981 to 1993, for his participation in the Democracy Wall movement, and had been constantly harassed and detained in the years between his prison sentences.

Xu's release follows the conditional release of labor activist Pang Qingxian and Wang Zhaoming on December 20.

HRIC notes, however, that several dissidents detained around the time of the 16th Party Congress remain in custody, and most of their arrests have not even been officially acknowledged. These include political activists Fang Jue, Zhao Changqing, Dai Xuezhong and He Depu, and Internet activists Liu Di and Li Yibin.

HRIC president Liu Qing says, "Of course we're happy to learn of the release of Xu Wenli and the other political activists. But many other dissidents are still in prison, and they, too, should be unconditionally released immediately. It's completely unacceptable for people to be imprisoned for no other reason than expressing their political or spiritual views or criticizing the government, when this kind of freedom of expression is recognized all over the world as a basic human right. It's simply not good enough to occasionally yield to international pressure and release a handful of people who should never have been imprisoned in the first place."

HRIC calls on the Chinese government to immediately release all dissidents who have been illegally detained and those remaining in prison. At the same time, HRIC urges the international community not to become complacent in the face of the release of Xu Wenli and misread such releases as signals of major change in China's human rights situation. Liu Qing says, "The Chinese government has released well-known dissidents in the past, such as Wang Juntao, Wei
Jingsheng, Wang Dan, Liu Nianchun
and Wang Ce, raising all kinds of hopes in the international community that the government had undergone a significant change of heart. But we see that the unreasonable persecution and arrest of political and religious dissidents continues. It's important for the international community to keep putting pressure on the Chinese government until there are indications of a genuine long-term change in the government's approach to dissenting voices."

For more information, contact:
Stacy Mosher (English) 212-268-9074
Liu Qing (Chinese) 718-459-4832