U.S.-based dissident reported freed from Chinese detention

AP, Mar. 2, 2003
http://newsobserver.com/
By JOE MCDONALD, ASSOCIATED PRESS

BEIJING (AP) – A U.S.-based Chinese activist has been released and flown to the United States, ending eight months of captivity in a case that resulted in a life prison term for another dissident, an activist group said Sunday.

Zhang Qi was released Friday after a court upheld the sentence of Wang Bingzhang, who is also her fiance, said Timothy Cooper, international director for the Washington-based Free China Movement. Zhang, Wang and a third dissident were traveling together when they disappeared last June after meeting with Chinese labor activists in Vietnam. Chinese police said they were found July 3 tied up in a temple during the investigation of a kidnapping case, but activists say the three were abducted from Vietnam by Chinese agents.

Zhang, 41, was released from house arrest in the western city of Chengdu and flew via Hong Kong to New York City, arriving late Saturday, Cooper said by telephone. He said she was en route to Washington and planned to hold a news conference.

Wang was convicted Feb. 9 by a court in the southern city of Shenzhen of spying for rival Taiwan and plotting bombings in China and other terrorist attacks.

Police and court authorities in Shenzhen and Chengdu contacted Sunday said they had no information on Zhang.

Authorities haven’t disclosed the evidence presented at Wang’s closed trial, saying it involved national secrets. His family and other activists say he is innocent.

The Chinese government has said Zhang and the third member of the group – Yue Wu, who was released in January – were cleared of involvement in Wang’s activities.

It wasn’t clear why authorities continued to hold Zhang after that announcement.

Zhang was a member of the banned Zhong Gong spiritual group, Cooper said. The group was outlawed following the 1999 crackdown on the better-known Falun Gong group, which communist leaders regarded as a threat to their control.

She fled China in December, 1999, to avoid arrest and lived in Thailand before receiving asylum in the United States in September, 2001, Cooper said.

After her detention last year, Zhang was held at a military camp in the city of Guangzhou, near Shenzhen, from August to December, when she was transferred to Chengdu, her hometown, Cooper said.

He said he had no other details, but said, “We understand it was a hellish experience for the past six, seven months or so.”

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