Plea to save Chinese dissident

A LEADING Chinese dissident, Wang Juntao, faces death in a Peking military hospital unless international pressure can secure his release for medical treatment, his wife said in London yesterday, writes Raymond Whitaker.

'If he is not released on bail for medical treatment as soon as possible, his health will deteriorate,' Hou Xiaotian said. 'I will lose my husband and the Chinese democracy movement will lose a good comrade. We should not wait until Wang Juntao dies before we raise his case.'

Mr Wang, 35, and Chen Ziming jointly edited Economic Weekly, since closed, and founded a think-tank whose ideas were influential in the democracy protests. They were jailed for 13 years in 1991 as alleged 'black hands' behind the 1989 Tiananmen protests. The release of other dissidents before the decision on China's bid for the 2000 Olympics means the two are probably the most prominent figures still imprisoned. Both were on a list of political prisoners handed to Peking two years ago during a visit by John Major.

Since being jailed Mr Wang has developed acute hepatitis and a heart condition, but his wife said he had received little medical treatment. Although he had been in a military hospital since June, he was under stricter surveillance there than in prison, making his health worse.

Ms Hou, who was jailed for four months in 1989, said British officials had promised to raise her husband's case with the Chinese whenever possible. She said she hoped to return to China next summer after studying in the US.

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