Wei vows to keep fighting

DEMOCRACY Wall activist Wei Jingsheng has finally been allowed to return home. Despite being released last week after serving a 141/2-year jail sentence, he had been prevented from seeing his family or appear in public. Instead he had been placed in aguesthouse and kept under police surveillance.

Why the authorities kept him under detention for so long is not clear. Perhaps they wanted to prevent him meeting the reporters who have been camped at the family home since news of his release was announced. If so, it only served to heighten interest in Wei and his prolonged detention.

The lack of an official explanation suggests that public and state security officials may have engaged in some arm twisting to prevent him embarrassing Beijing. Judging from his remarks last night, it does not seem to have had the desired effect, since Mr Wei has vowed to continue the pro-democracy fight.

More worrying is the Asia Watch allegation that Beijing is planning to try a new batch of dissidents the moment the International Olympic Committee (IOC) decides on the city to host the 2000 Olympics.

These dissidents have been held since the middle of last year and Asia Watch may be highlighting their plight to put international pressure on Beijing to let them go. This is in the hope that securing their release before they are sentenced would have abigger impact on world opinion than the rather cynical parole of Mr Wei, or the People's Daily editor Wu Xuecan, just a few months before their terms would have been up.

Beijing desperately wants the Olympics. Many in Hong Kong want Beijing to have the Olympics. For a number of reasons, Beijing should have the Olympics. Yet its handling of Mr Wei's release and its plans to put on trial other dissidents places unnecessary obstacles in the way of the IOC and world opinion.