Activist pinning his hopes on lenience
Fox Yi Hu and Gary Cheung
Chen Ziming hopes Beijing's approval of his visit to Hong Kong - in line with its openness ahead of the Olympics - marks the beginning of lenience towards dissidents.
'Hopefully this is just the prologue for moving towards freedom in the long term,' he said. 'I hope there are no setbacks after this small but positive step.'
The leading pro-democracy activist said he hoped the open-minded approach continued after the Games, and that friends who had been barred from China, including fellow dissident Wang Juntao , could return.
Mr Chen said China had undergone a sea change since the 1989 Tiananmen Square protests.
'After trying me in court, some judicial officials told me in private that the Tiananmen protests should be vindicated,' said Mr Chen. 'Nobody calls me a counter-revolutionary nowadays.'
He said the main resistance to a reassessment of Tiananmen was the leadership's fear of unrest. 'If it knows no large-scale chaos will ensue, I believe it would vindicate the pro-democracy movement.'
Mr Chen said Premier Wen Jiabao's remarks in Japan were good indicators that democracy would be gradually embraced.
The number of police officers deployed to monitor the activist has fallen over the years from more than 50 to four today.