The release of Tibetan nun Ngawang Sangdrol by the Chinese government might indicate the focus of human rights talks with the United States has shifted to individual cases, rights activist John Kamm said yesterday. Ms Ngawang Sangdrol was released last Wednesday from a prison in Lhasa after serving 10 years of a 19-year sentence. The 25-year-old nun was believed to be the longest-serving woman Tibetan political prisoner. Mr Kamm, who helped arrange her early release, said there were signs the emphasis in Sino-US talks had moved back to the plight of individual prisoners. He was referring to the later years of the Clinton administration, when US officials often focused on systemic issues in their human rights discussions with mainland officials. '[I think] the focus is back on individual cases. During the Clinton administration, the focus was on rule-of-law and training of judges,' Mr Kamm, from San Francisco, said. 'We are seeing more a balance now.' In the early 1990s, the US would present Chinese officials with prisoner lists and ask for the release of those named. The practice all but ended in the late 1990s when relations were at a low ebb after the bombing of the Chinese Embassy in Belgrade by US forces, and Beijing's objection that the requests constituted interference in China's internal affairs. Mr Kamm, who has liaised between the Chinese and US governments over the release of prisoners, said Chinese officials were now more willing to provide information on prisoners. He cited the example of Hunan province labour activist Chen Gang. Mr Kamm said he had received information that penal authorities had again reduced Chen's sentence, by two years. Chen has had his sentence reduced four times since he was sentenced to death in 1989 with a two-year reprieve. He is due for release in November 2005. Mr Kamm said he was optimistic another 'key' political prisoner would be released before the end of the year, after a visit by President Jiang Zemin to the US this week. He declined to say whether the prisoner was a Tibetan. 'I really can't say anything more about this now,' Mr Kamm said. 'But this [future] release will have importance of the Ngawang Sangdrol class.' The activist said he would return to Beijing this month and was hopeful of more news about prisoner releases. 'I will also ask to meet Ngawang Sangdrol,' he said. 'But I don't know if she will want to stay in Tibet.' Jailed when she was 15, Ms Ngawang Sangdrol was widely regarded by Tibetan exiles as an icon of defiance against Chinese rule. Her sentence was extended a number of times after she carried on pro-Dalai Lama protests while in prison. Mickey Spiegel, senior researcher of Human Rights Watch, said although she welcomed the release of Ms Ngawang Sangdrol, it was 'no more than a gesture'. She said there were hundreds of political prisoners in China and the nun's release did not 'represent a change in [China's] human rights policy'.