Dissident Wang says he'll carry on fight for democracy in China
April 23, 1998
Web posted at: 2:14 p.m. EDT (1814 GMT)
NEW YORK (CNN) -- Speaking publicly for the first time in
years, leading Chinese dissident Wang Dan told reporters
Thursday that he's happy to be in a nation where he can
breathe and think freely but that he'll never give up his
fight for democracy in China.
"On the one hand I am naturally delighted to breathe free
again, especially since I can now live and study in a free
country like America," Wang said. "But on the other hand, I
feel disturbed at having been forced to leave my own country,
to live separately from my family, relatives and friends, and
all of my compatriots without knowing when, if ever, I will
be allowed to see them again."
Wang arrived in the United States on Sunday to begin a life
in exile, after Beijing
officials released him from prison on a medical parole. He
was serving an 11-year sentence imposed in 1996.
The dissident, who rose to international prominence in June
1989 during the pro-democracy student demonstrations in
Beijing, thanked the United States and human rights groups
for pushing China to release him.
Wang also said China may have more political prisoners than
any other nation in the world, and the United States, and
others, should continue to press for their release.
The release of more political prisoners should be U.S.
President Bill Clinton's top human rights issue when he
travels to Beijing in two months, Wang said. Political
prisoners are such a thorny issue in China that progress
needs to be made in that area first; if that is done,
progress in other human rights areas will follow, he said.
The 29-year-old Wang told reporters he has two goals for his
stay in the United States: to complete his university
education and to continue to promote the democratization of
China and the improvement of human rights conditions there.
A protester confronts tanks during the 1989 democracy protest in Beijing
"I feel that my country now stands at a crossroads: Will it
move toward democracy and prosperity, or go stumbling toward
chaos and collapse?" Wang said.
"I plan to devote my entire life to the struggle for
democracy in China. I hope to continue using three criteria
for measuring the worth of my actions: Have I been
responsible to the Chinese people, to history, and to my own
When asked how he planned to support himself in the United
States, Wang emphasized that he does not want handouts.
Instead, he said, he prefers to work on a campus while
completing his education.
Wang was a student at Peking University in 1989 when he
launched his controversial political career.
Nine years ago this week, Wang and other student leaders led
a march to Tiananmen Square. For weeks, Wang, and others,
could be seen extolling the virtues of democracy to thousands
in the square. The images of Wang speaking to the crowds
became some of the most enduring of the student protests.
On June 3 and 4 of that year, Chinese soldiers unloaded
machine-guns on the crowds, killing hundreds.
After the massacre, Wang disappeared into the underground.
He was placed on China's most-wanted list, and subsequently
arrested and jailed for four years.
After his release, Wang continued speaking out for political
freedom. Chinese officials detained him again in 1995. A
year later, a Beijing court sentenced him to 11 years in
Before his arrival in New York, Wang's first U.S.-stop was in
Detroit, where he was admitted to Henry Ford Hospital.
Doctors there evaluated him for medical problems that arose
while Wang was in prison.
Wang told reporters on Thursday that the Detroit doctors said
he suffers no serious health problems. They are treating him
for a chronic cough brought on by mild asthma, Wang said.
The doctors also found no signs of a brain tumor during their
evaluation, he added.
Chronic headaches and the fear that Wang might have been
suffering from a brain tumor were part of the reason China
agreed to his medical parole, Wang said.
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