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Sunday, April 19, 1998 Published at 18:14 GMT 19:14 UK

World: Asia-Pacific

Freed Chinese dissident arrives in US

Wang Dan was one of China's most prominent political prisoners

China has released one of its most famous political dissidents, Wang Dan, and sent him into exile in the United States.

On arrival in Detroit, 29-year-old Mr Wang was escorted away by police, and has been admitted to hospital.

The official Xinhua news agency said the authorities had allowed Mr Wang to be released on bail for medical treatment and he had gone abroad to receive it.

Han Dongfang speaking on the BBC World Service's Newshour (35")
Prominent Chinese labour activist, Han Dongfang - now living in Hong Kong - said Mr Wang should have been released and allowed to stay and speak freely in China.

Mr Wang came to prominence as a leader of the student movement in the 1989 Tiananmen Square pro-democracy demonstrations, which was crushed by the army.

He served four years in jail for his part in the protest. In 1996, he was imprisoned again, sentenced to 11 years on charges of conspiring to subvert the government.

The BBC's Beijing correspondent Carrie Gracie discusses the release with BBC News 24
His departure from China was swift. His parents were dispatched to his north-eastern prison on Friday evening, before the whole family was driven back to Beijing. The dissident boarded a scheduled flight for Detroit on Sunday.

Link to Clinton visit

The US Government, which has been pressing for Mr Wang's release ahead of a planned visit to Beijing by President Clinton in June, has welcomed his release. A spokesman described it as a positive sign.

[ image: Wang Dan was one of the leaders of the Tiananmen Square protests]
Wang Dan was one of the leaders of the Tiananmen Square protests
The BBC's China Correspondent, Carrie Gracie, said China's decision confirms its strategy of sending troublesome dissidents abroad rather than allowing them to become a cause celebre at home.

Mr Wang's departure means China has now exiled almost all its prominent dissidents, and thereby neutralised much of the human rights pressure it has been under from the international community.

Last November, China's other top dissident, Wei Jingsheng, was released into exile in the US following a visit to Washington by the Chinese president.

In the past, Mr Wang has refused to go abroad as a condition of release, insisting that he would stay in China, but his health has been deteriorating, and his mother told the BBC he decided to leave because he wanted to get medical treatment and to further his studies. She said he was calm but suffering from a severe headache and bad cough. She added that he hoped to return to China someday.

Chinese dissident Harry Wu: "release intended to make American capital flow to China" (2'07")
The Chinese dissident Harry Wu, now living in the US, welcomed the release, but said the Chinese Government should not be applauded.

He said the freeing of Mr Wang was part of a deal between the US, which wants to see China's human rights record improved, and China, which wants foreign investment.

He said the West's attention should not solely be focused on one or two well-known dissidents but pressure applied for China to improve human rights across a broad area, including workers rights, religious freedoms and closing down labour camps.

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