China averts rights row with US and expels dissident

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The Independent Online
China has deflected a potential human- rights flare-up with Washington by expelling a US-based dissident who sneaked back into the country under a false name. The events yesterday meant Peking had opted to dispose of the problem as quickly as possible rather than make an example of the man. Wang Bingzhang, a pro-democracy campaigner, was arrested in Anhui province on Friday after entering China last month. On Monday he was put on an plane in Shanghai for Los Angeles. "China is like a boil. On the outside the skin is smooth but on the inside it is full of pus," he told Reuters from the US. Three mainland dissidents who were arrested after meeting Mr Wang have also been released.

China's leaders probably decided they had more to lose by taking a hard line against Mr Wang, who has lived in the US for 15 years but does not have citizenship. His case has overshadowed the arrival this week of three US religious leaders on an unprecedented fact-finding mission offered by President Jiang Zemin during his Washington summit in October. Peking is trying to improve its image before next month's UN Human Rights Commission meeting in Geneva, when European countries and the US decide whether to renew the annual attempt to condemn China. In January, Peking invited the UN's top rights official, Mary Robinson, to visit, but no date has been fixed. In Los Angeles, Mr Wang, who had not set foot in China since 1978, said: "How the Communist Party handled my case can serve as a reference for other pro-democracy activists who want to return to China. Their swift decision could be a sign that the Communist Party is adopting new ways and becoming more open." But he was scathing in his assessment of political stability on the mainland. "People lack morals. Cheating and lies are everywhere. The Communist Party, government, military, police, prosecutors and judges are all corrupt and things are only getting worse. Something big will happen in China in the next few years. If we don't come back now to make preparations for the founding of a new state, the democratic movement will lose another opportunity." Mr Wang confirmed he entered China with the idea of founding an opposition group; he wanted to attract government cadres, entrepreneurs and workers.