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China Releases Jailed Dissident - 2002-02-20

The wife of a jailed Chinese dissident is asking President Bush to press Beijing for her husband's release when Mr. Bush visits China Thursday. China often releases prominent dissidents during or after visits by senior U.S. leaders.

He Xintong, wife of veteran Chinese democracy activist Xu Wenli says her husband suffers from hepatitis and acute arthritis. She is worried that he may suddenly die. Ms. He says she sent a letter to President Bush, urging him to ask Chinese President Jiang Zemin for her husband's release on medical parole.

Mr. Bush arrives in China Thursday, the last stop on a trip that has already taken him to South Korea and Japan.

One of China's most famous dissidents, Mr. Xu is serving a 13 year prison term for organizing the opposition China Democracy Party in 1998. Ms. He says her husband should be allowed to travel to the United States to receive proper medical attention. She says she has written many letters to President Jiang, pleading for more humane treatment for her husband, but has never received a response.

Mr. Xu has spent 15 of the last 20 years in prison. He was first jailed in 1981 for his involvement in the Democracy Wall movement, which called for greater political freedoms. He served 12 years of a 15 year sentence, and was released in 1993. Authorities arrested him again at the end of 1998.

China often times the release of prominent prisoners of conscience to coincide with visits by U.S. leaders. President Bush has said he will raise the issue of human rights with Chinese leaders during his two days of meetings here.