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China's SARS whistle-blower freed

From CNN Beijing Producer Steven Jiang

Jiang revealed the true scale of the SARS outbreak in China.
Communist Party

BEIJING, China (CNN) -- A Chinese military doctor who exposed the official cover-up of the SARS epidemic in Beijing and petitioned the Communist leadership over the Tianamen Square crackdown has been released from detention, a U.S. Embassy spokesman has said.

"We are pleased to hear that Dr Jiang Yanyong was allowed to return to his family on Monday and that he is in good health," the spokesman said on Wednesday.

"We hope to see him return to his normal activities as soon as possible."

Jiang, 72, upset Chinese leaders after he wrote a letter in February urging them to reverse the official verdict that labeled the peaceful Tianamen Square demonstrations in the (northern hemisphere) spring of 1989 a "counter-revolutionary riot."

Hundreds, perhaps thousands, of people were killed when Chinese troops broke up the protests in the heart of Beijing.

Jiang and his wife were taken into custody by military authorities on June 1 -- the eve of the 15th anniversary of the Tiananmen massacre -- and was reportedly forced to undergo "study sessions."

His wife was released two weeks later under the condition that the family not talk to the media.

Human rights groups have welcomed the news of Jiang's release.

"The detention violated his rights in the first place," Sharon Hom, executive director of New York-based Human Rights in China, told The Associated Press.

The 1989 protests remain one of the most sensitive topics in China, as many top leaders involved in the brutal crackdown are either still alive or still in power.

Last year, the retired surgeon was thrust into the international spotlight when he disclosed in a letter the true scale of the SARS epidemic in the Chinese capital.

After Jiang's letter was publicized, the government quickly revised its figures on SARS cases, fired the health minister, as well as the mayor of Beijing for mishandling the epidemic.

Jiang became a hero to many Chinese for blowing the whistle on the cover-up but his action was never acknowledged by the government. (From hero to villain)

Calls to Jiang's home went unanswered Wednesday.

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