Chinese pro-democracy campaigner and long-time U.S. resident Yang Jianli has returned to his home in the United States, following five years in prison in Beijing. He was arrested in China in 2002 on charges of illegal entry, during a trip to his home country to observe labor unrest. VOA's Stephanie Ho reports from Washington.
For years, the case of Chinese dissident Yang Jianli has been the focus of high level attention from U.S. lawmakers and Bush administration officials.
Chinese authorities arrested Yang in 2002, when he tried to enter the country using a friend's passport. Yang acknowledges he entered China illegally, but he had been blacklisted from returning home because he was a leading activist in the 1989 Tiananmen Square uprising.
The dissident served a five-year sentence in a Chinese prison, and then, for four more months, was not allowed to leave the country.
At a news conference Tuesday on Capitol Hill, Yang thanked the international community for keeping up pressure for his release and for allowing him to return to his family in the United States.
"I'm here today, stronger than I have ever been, more determined than I ever thought possible, more convinced that the one-party system in China is fatally flawed and deeply heartened by the knowledge, especially after the four months I spent in Beijing since my release, that the democratization process in China is irreversible," said Yang Jianli.
Yang added that he believes Chinese people are increasingly demanding accountability from their government.
"They want transparency and good governance," he said. "They want to know that their government has their best interest in mind, and most important, they are educated enough that they want a say in how those resources are invested and spent."
He says he was, in his words, "privileged" to have so many influential people working for his release.
One of Yang's supporters, U.S. Congressman Barney Frank, said the big breakthrough came as a result of a recent conversation between Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson and Chinese Vice-Premier Wu Yi. The two met in China during a U.S.-China Strategic Economic Dialogue session, which focused largely on trade issues.
"And I guess the way to summarize this is, we haven't seen much movement on the Chinese currency, but he [Yang] got out of jail," said Congressman Frank. "So, the Strategic Economic Dialogue hasn't been a total loss. Secretary Paulson spoke personally with Wu Yi, who is his negotiating partner."
Meanwhile, Yang said that although he was beaten and badly mistreated during his five years in jail, he said the situation for less well-known political prisoners in China is much, much worse.