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Tuesday, April 28, 1998 Published at 22:14 GMT 23:14 UK

World: Asia-Pacific

Dissident raises the stakes
image: [ Wang Dan, speaking to the BBC in New York ]
Wang Dan, speaking to the BBC in New York

A leading Chinese dissident, Wang Dan, has urged the American Secretary of State, Madeleine Albright, who is visiting China, to increase pressure for the release of political prisoners.

Wang Dan, one of the leaders of the Tiananmen Square democracy uprising in 1989, was released to the United States from a Chinese prison less than a fortnight ago.

Chinese dissident Wang Dan :'Being exiled doesn't weaken my effectiveness' (4'22)
With Madeleine Albright currently in Beijing and President Clinton preparing for a visit next month, Wang Dan is trying to restate his influence as a pro-democracy campaigner.

Speaking to the BBC, Wang Dan stressed the need for international pressure for the release of more political prisoners.

"I understand American policy towards China represents the interests of the American people," he said. "But as a Chinese I hope that American policy will promote political economic and cultural development with China ... and maintain a moral standard."

He said though official statistics put the number of political prisoners in China at about 2,000, he believes there are many more, as well as thousands of dissidents outside jail who suffer persecution on an almost daily basis.

He is confident that China will eventually become democratic. "In the not very distant future, I see the Chinese embarking on the road to democracy and civilisation. This is not only a trend in China, it is a worldwide trend."

[ image: Madeline Albright is still concerned about human rights in China]
Madeline Albright is still concerned about human rights in China
The US has welcomed Wang Dan's release and that of another high-profile dissident, Wei Jingsheng, a few months ago.

But shortly before she left Tokyo for Beijing, Madeleine Albright spoke of her concern about the on-going repression of dissent and religious freedoms in China.

"We must continue to speak with clarity," she said. "For while some Chinese dissidents have been released to exile in recent months, the Chinese government's repression of dissent and religious freedom has not ceased."

The administration wants the Chinese to sign the United Nations covenant on human rights before President Clinton's visit next month.

In return, Washington is considering easing the sanctions imposed on China after the suppression of the Tiananmen Square demonstrations nine years ago.

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