20 April 1998

Democrats Respond to the Release of Chinese Activist Wang Dan

Democratic Party Chairman Martin Lee and Vice Chairman Dr. Yeung Sum today held a press conference to comment on the release from prison of Chinese dissident Wang Dan, a leader of the 1989 Tiananmen Square pro-democracy protests. The Democratic Party -- which has long pushed for democracy and improved human rights conditions in China -- maintained Beijing's move does not indicate an improvement in China's human rights situation, but rather that Wang's forced exile represents another infringement of his rights as a Chinese citizen.

The democrats criticised the exploitation of Chinese political prisoners for political purposes and called both for the release of all remaining political prisoners in China and fundamental reform to the system in China, to permit genuine political dissent and the development of democratic institutions.

Martin Lee commented:

"While we are happy for Mr. Wang and his family, it is important to remember he should never have been arrested in the first place. Article 41 of the Chinese Constitution guarantees: 'Citizens of the People's Republic of China have the right to criticize and make suggestions to any state organ or functionary.' But when Wang Dan exercised his right to free expression, he was convicted and sentenced to 11 years in prison. His release does not mean that he is truly free, as he certainly can not go back to China.

The Democratic Party does not believe that the exile of Wang Dan reflects a sincere desire to improve human rights conditions in China, but rather highlights the Chinese Government's continuing intolerance and repression. Calculated foreign policy manoeuvres are no substitute for the free exercise of human rights and the rule of law, as shown by the thousands of political dissidents who still remain in prison.

As Chinese citizens, we want to see the international community do more than press Chinese leaders for the release of individual political prisoners. In light of President Clinton's impending visit to China, the West should look past the cynical facade of Mr. Wang's release and raise the need for substantive political reform. When in China, Mr. Clinton and other world leaders must press for a timetable for the development of democracy. An open, fair and democratic system will ultimately be the only real guarantee of progress in China."

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