Wang to speak out for jailed comrades

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 28 April, 1994, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 28 April, 1994, 12:00am

CHINA'S top dissident Wang Juntao yesterday vowed that he would not be silenced by Beijing and would fight for the freedom of his ''comrades-in-arms'' who were still in jail.


In an interview with the South China Morning Post, Mr Wang made it clear that he would continue to speak his mind although he had been warned by Beijing not to engage in ''activities against the interest of the motherland'' before he left Beijing.


Mr Wang was freed and arrived in New York on Saturday for treatment for hepatitis after serving five years of a 13-year jail term for organising the 1989 pro-democracy movement - an accusation denied by Mr Wang.


According to Mr Wang, labour reform officials warned him that they would be watching his activities abroad.


''But I asked them what is the interest of the motherland? The interest of a few individuals doesn't equal to the interest of the motherland . . . The interest of the motherland is the interest of the majority of Chinese people,'' he said.


''They said I have not been reformed well. But I told them it was not I who needed to be reformed, it was they who should be,'' the defiant activist said.


Mr Wang declined to give a direct answer on the controversial debate over China's Most Favoured Nation (MFN) trading status. But he stressed he would make public his position when he was ready. ''It is their [US Government] business to deal with MFN. But I can't make up my mind before I find out what is the wish of the majority of Chinese people on this issue,'' he said.


US President Bill Clinton must decide before June 3 whether to extend China's MFN status this year although it is widely believed that the President will do so after Mr Wang's release.


Mr Wang said he agreed to leave China because he feared that if he turned down the offer, it would jeopardise the chance of other dissidents who might want to leave.


Having served less than half of his 13-year sentence, Mr Wang is one of three dissidents allowed to leave for medical treatment in the US. The other two are physicist Fang Lizhi and labour activist Han Dongfang.


Before his release on Saturday, Mr Wang was told by his captors that he was being freed because ''the US Government has requested it and it was agreed by the Chinese Government''.


It was understood that the US Government had also put forward the names of at least four other jailed dissidents: Chen Ziming, Ren Wanding, Liu Gang and Bao Tong - generally believed to be in poor health and either in prison clinics or hospitals.


Mr Wang also expressed concern about dissident journalist Gao Yu who was arrested in October for allegedly leaking state secrets to foreign publications. A verdict on her was expected this week.


Although Mr Wang said he was aware that China had banned Mr Han from returning to the country, he believed there was no reason for Beijing to refuse him.


''I have done nothing against the law in China. And I will not do so even now I am out of the country. There is no reason why they should not allow me to return to my country,'' he said.


''To do so would be a violation of international convention,'' he added.


On his time in jail, the 35-year-old activist said conditions were so poor that he had to initiate 21 hunger strikes in five years to protest against his ill treatment.