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Thursday, October 7, 1999 Published at 14:19 GMT 15:19 UK

World: Asia-Pacific

Leading Chinese dissident released

Liu Xiaobo backed 1989 Tiananmen Square protest

By Adam Brookes in Beijing

One of China's leading dissidents, Liu Xiaobo, is free having served out a three-year sentence in detention.

Mr Liu was sentenced in 1996 to what the Chinese government calls "re-education through labour" after he signed an open letter suggesting the leader of China's ruling Communist party be impeached.

China: 50 years of communism / Revolution Glossary
Liu Xiaobo is a literary critic and used to be a professor at one of Beijing's universities. Over and over again, he has lent his name and his considerable reputation as an academic to movements demanding greater political freedom in China.

Still defiant

Mr Liu, who is 44 years old, told the BBC by telephone from the north-eastern city of Dalian that he had been treated relatively well during his incarceration and that his health was good.

He said he intended to remain in China; he said he did not regret any of his political activities in the past and was not going to change.

Liu Xiaobo was an important figure in the protests that swept China in 1989, which were violently put down by the military, and led a hunger strike in support of the student democracy protestors on Tiananmen Square.

[ image: Jiang Zemin: Liu called for impeachment]
Jiang Zemin: Liu called for impeachment
He subsequently served nearly two years in prison and, in 1996, he and another dissident went public with wide-ranging demands for political change, including a demand that Jiang Zemin, the head of China's Communist party, be impeached.

He was then sentenced to what is known in China as "re-education through labour". That is a penalty that the Chinese security apparatus can impose without trial for up to three years.

No 'softening' by authorities

His release came as scheduled and does not indicate any softening of the Chinese authorities' stance on dissent.

Even though the Communist Revolution's 50th anniversary has drawn the eyes of the rest of the world, the security authorities have moved concertedly against dissidents and non-government groups in recent months.

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