Tiananmen Square crackdown

Mainland dissident arriving in HK today for medical check

PUBLISHED : Monday, 16 April, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 16 April, 2007, 12:00am

China has created a relaxing political atmosphere for the 2008 Beijing Olympics by allowing dissidents to visit Hong Kong, a veteran democracy activist says.

Ren Wanding , a Tiananmen-era dissident and human rights activist, jailed twice for a total of 11 years for his activism, was granted a seven-day permit to visit Hong Kong for a health check, and will arrive today.

'It is time for me to have a health check in Hong Kong, as I had surgery in 2005,' Mr Ren said from Beijing. He said he had applied for the check when he noticed that strict restrictions placed on foreign journalists had been eased for reporting the Olympics, starting from January 1 this year.

'It is a sign of having a relaxed atmosphere ... [the new regulations] allow all Hong Kong, Macau and overseas reporters to travel and report without permission in Beijing. It is an opportunity for me to use,' Mr Ren said.

He believed the change had been introduced to mark the Olympics rather than the 10th anniversary of the Hong Kong handover, or the crucial party congress, which will determine the new leadership lineup, scheduled for the autumn.

Mr Ren will be the second noted dissident to visit Hong Kong in a week. Chen Ziming , branded a 'black hand' mastermind of the 1989 Tiananmen Square protests, arrived last Wednesday to conduct research for his new book.

Mr Chen was jailed for 13 years in 1991 for his 'subversive role' in the Tiananmen protests. Freed on medical parole in 1996, he had been under surveillance and banned from leaving China.

Mr Ren, 63, said he might meet democrats in Hong Kong, but he did not have a detailed schedule for his trip yet. He will travel by train from Beijing and is expected to arrive in Hong Kong at 7am today.

Mr Ren has suffered from bone tuberculosis and arthritis, and had surgery in 2005 for his illnesses.

Lee Cheuk-yan, unionist and core member of the Hong Kong Alliance in Support of Patriotic Democratic Movements in China, said from the cases of Mr Chen and Mr Ren, it appeared the policy on dissidents had been relaxed.

However, he also said human rights campaigners were still subject to strict treatment, with outspoken human rights lawyer Gao Zhisheng being ill-treated while in custody and then placed under intensive surveillance.

A government spokesman said the administration would not comment on individual cases.