Obviously, this is good news and the Chinese government is to be congratulated for finally heeding the many calls for Wei Jingsheng’s release from prison but we hope that it will be followed by further improvements,” said A. Lin Neumann, CPJ’s Asia Program Coordinator. “The irony is that a great nation like China felt it had to exile Wei rather than release him outright so that he could live and write in China freely. It is difficult to understand how a peaceful writer who advocates democracy constitutes a threat to the Chinese nation.”
In the aftermath of Wei’s release on medical grounds and subsequent exile to the United States, CPJ praised both the Clinton administration, for its constructive engagement on human rights with China, and the broad coalition of human rights organizations which have consistently pressured Beijing to release its political prisoners. “Coming so soon after the visit of Jiang Zemin to the United States, we assume the release of Wei is a sign of positive linkage emerging from the visit,” Neumann said.
CPJ, a non-partisan organization dedicated to the defense of journalists worldwide, noted that at least 15 other journalists remain in jail in China for practicing their profession and that countless others have been silenced by fear or direct censorship. “The cases of Wei Jingsheng and many others show just how far China has to go before it can be said to be practicing even the most minimal international standards of press freedom,” said Neumann. “Without a free press, China will always be outside the community of modern nations.” Wei Jingsheng was serving a 14-year sentence in a labor camp at the time of his release. Now 47 and in ill-health, Wei was first imprisoned in 1979 as a result of his participation in the Democracy Wall Movement. He was released briefly in 1993 before being rearrested in 1994. He is the former co-editor of the pro-democracy journal Tansuo (Explorations). Wei’s landmark essay, “The Fifth Modernization” called on Chinese leaders to add a fifth component to the “four modernizations” of Deng Xiaoping: democracy.
“Wei Jingsheng’s call for democracy as a necessary component of modernization in China remains as pertinent as ever,” said Neumann.
The New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists is an independent, nonprofit organization that documents and responds to violations of press freedom worldwide. CPJ’s Web site is http://www.cpj.org.