Visiting rights threatened over release petition

BAO Tong, the senior aide of former Chinese Communist Party (CCP) boss Mr Zhao Ziyang, has been informed that he must forfeit his rights to see his family if he decides to press ahead with a petition to seek an early release from prison on medical grounds.

The decision to bar the 60-year-old former CCP Central Committee member from meeting his family was said to have been made at the ''very top'' of the leadership and has been formally endorsed by the Ministry of Justice and Ministry of Supervision.

Unlike a number of Tiananmen Square activists, including editors Wang Juntao and Chen Ziming, who were allowed to spend a few hours with their families during the Lunar New Year, Bao was denied such ''lenient treatment''.

Instead, his family was told they must follow prison rules and only visit Bao once every two months.

Although Bao has not had any major illness, his white blood cell count is still below the normal level and he suffers from a chronic stomach ache.

Since the release of Mr Gao Shan and Mr Wu Xuecan, Bao is the last known political prisoner in jail because of his links with Mr Zhao.


Sentenced last August, for ''leaking state secrets and counter-revolutionary incitement'', Bao has served more than half of his seven-year jail sentence.

Under Chinese law, Bao is technically eligible for early parole. But despite the recent releases of student leader Wang Dan, sources said it was not yet likely that Bao would be accorded such a favour.

''It seems that they fear that an early parole of Mr Bao would be interpreted as a partial rehabilitation of June 4th,'' said a source referring to the 1989 massacre.

The authorities' hesitation was also reflected in the recent rejection of an application by Mr Zhao to visit Guangdong.


''It also indicated that the possibility of Mr Zhao returning to politics in the near future was very very slim,'' the source added.

Meanwhile, Mr Gao, who was released from jail last month, has yet to find a job.


Sources said the decision to release the 37-year-old economist was apparently made ''hastily''.