MAY 31 'I am a normal person. I am not sick. I want to go back to my family and rejoin society.' These are the words of Wang Wanxing, one of China's longest-serving political prisoners, who will mark his 10th year of detention in Beijing's Ankang Psychiatric Hospital on June 3. The hospital is run by the Ministry of Public Security and Ministry of Civil Affairs. The official reason given for his detention is treatment of 'political abnormality disease'. Wang, 52, made an 80-minute tape during a rare period of temporary release - just before US President George W. Bush's February visit - in which he talks about life as a victim of the communist system and its Kafkaesque ideology. 'The police gave me eight conditions for my temporary release, including not listening to foreign radio or watching foreign television, not giving interviews to reporters or meeting friends. The officers did not say that I should not record a tape. I thought I should do what I could for my freedom,' he said on the tape. 'I have spent 10 years in hospital. That is enough. I want to go home. President Bush asked for my release. 'I have never committed violence. I am proud of what I have done and do not regret what I did in 1989 and 1992. A person should have his own way of thinking.' Wang was born in Beijing on October 10, 1949, and completed junior middle school. As a young man, he was already outside the rigid consensus of Maoist China. 'Next to my home was a large open space where people talked about social issues. There were people who wanted to marry but could not because of their 'bad class' background. I saw films and novels about this and sympathised with the victims,' he said. 'In 1969, few dared to criticise Mao Zedong. Even then I thought he was both good and bad. I said so, but no one understood me.' In 1964, he applied to join the Communist Party and Communist Youth League. Two years later, like millions of other urban Chinese, Wang was sent to do farm work. He went to Heilongjiang province, where he lived for 13 years, but continued to closely watch events in the capital. He returned to Beijing in January 1976 for a brief visit but back in Heilongjiang he called a friend in the capital. After listening in on the call, police arrested him and held him for several months. In an overt political act, he sent a letter to the then Communist Party chief, Hua Guofeng, on June 5, 1977, expressing his support for thousands of people who had flocked to Tiananmen Square in April the previous year to mourn the death of premier Zhou Enlai. The rally was at the time declared counter-revolutionary. His letter also criticised the leadership for expelling Deng Xiaoping in 1976 from his post as vice-premier. For this, Wang was re-arrested and held for 17 months in a room. He was watched day and night and made to read official newspapers and the thoughts of Mao. But his fortunes changed in 1979, after Deng was reinstated as vice-premier and appointed vice-chairman of the Central Committee. Wang found the door to his room unlocked and he walked free. He returned to Beijing. Along with thousands of others, he applied to the party to have his name cleared but did not succeed. He then brought the issue to the attention of foreign journalists, which attracted the wrath of the police. He further aroused their anger by expressing his views on domestic and foreign issues in open letters that he gave journalists. He was also active during the student protests in 1989. In the tape, he blames then party chief Zhao Ziyang - who has been under house arrest since the June 4 crackdown - and his associates for not persuading the students to leave the square. 'If they had seriously addressed the problems, the loss of lives could have been avoided,' he said. The last time I saw Wang was on June 4, 1989, outside a hospital which was caring for the dead and wounded. He told me he was being followed by the secret police and advised me to stay away to avoid being arrested. He came across as a straightforward person whose fault was to state his opinions in public on sensitive issues, when it would have been more prudent to remain silent or express them only among friends. He was arrested on June 3, 1992, in Tiananmen Square for unfurling a banner to commemorate the third anniversary of the military crackdown and has been kept in the psychiatric hospital ever since, except for brief periods of release. He bears no grudges against his captors. 'I want to take this opportunity to thank the deputy governor of the hospital and many other members of staff for their treatment of me. 'I would also like to thank a Beijing police commander who ordered his men not to beat me. The problem is that when you thank someone the Communist Party will punish them,' he said. 'I am in good physical condition, doing exercises every day. I can do 40 press-ups and run 100 metres in 14 seconds. The food here is adequate. 'I have been a co-operative patient. If I had gone on hunger strike or been difficult, they could have forced medicine on me. It is better to compromise. If others are put in here, I would advise them to co-operate.'