Exiled Tiananmen Square student leader Wang Dan yesterday renewed his call for the central government to allow him to return to the mainland, saying his rights should be upheld now that he was a 'free' person after legally completing his jail term.
Mr Wang, who was one of the key organisers of the 1989 protests that led to the June 4 crackdown, was arrested for 'subverting the country' in October 1996 and sentenced to 11 years' jail. He was exiled to the United States on medical parole two years later and has since been banned from setting foot on the mainland.
In a letter sent to friends yesterday, he said his family had received notice on Friday that they should go to the prison in Jinzhou , Liaoning province - where he originally served his sentence - to complete the procedure for his formal release, which they did.
'From the legal point of view as formulated by the Chinese government, today I formally resume my personal freedom,' he wrote.
He also called on the authorities to give back or renew passports of dissidents who were exiled.
The former student leader, who is currently in Taiwan, told the South China Morning Post that he was involved in a petition for exiled dissidents who wanted to return to the mainland.
Although in theory the legal obstacles are now cleared, he conceded that his return to the mainland would hinge on the central government's attitude towards dissidents and admitted that he did not have high hopes.
On the possibility of visiting Hong Kong, Mr Wang said he was still in touch with some non-government groups in the city and hoped to teach at a local university.
Mr Wang, who is due to graduate from Harvard University in June with a doctorate degree, was unable to renew his passport when it expired in 2003. He has been forced to use a document issued by the US government for his travels.