Sun, Mar 09, 2003 - Page 4 News List

Lu urges Beijing to free dissident Yang

KINDRED SPIRITS In an interview broadcast on Radio Free Asia, the vice president said she admired Yang Jianli for his patriotism and that they had a lot in common

By Lin Chieh-yu  /  STAFF REPORTER

Vice President Annette Lu (呂秀蓮) yesterday urged the Chinese authorities to free detained dissident Yang Jianli (楊建利), saying that she respected Yang's views all the more because of her own experience as a political prisoner in Taiwan.

"Whether leaders of the People's Republic of China can hear this interview or not, [I urge] our listeners in China to pass on this message to your new leaders: If Taiwan can have democracy, so can mainland China," she said when accepting an interview by the Radio Free Asia (RFA) on Friday.

"Mr. Yang Jianli is a talented and well-educated man. Why not cherish such talent by allowing him to participate in building the country, instead of condemning him to prison and persecuting him?" Lu said.

The interview was broadcast to China yesterday.

Yang, a scholar and a permanent US resident, was detained in Kunming, Yunnan Province, on April 26 last year. He was returning to China to investigate workers' protests that had erupted in the northeastern part of the country. Yang's wife, US citizen Fu Xiang (傅湘), was detained for two days upon arriving in China last May, when she tried to visit her husband in prison. She was subsequently expelled from the country.

"Yang reminds me of myself many years ago," Lu said. "In 1978, I was studying at Harvard -- and I could have continued my studies there, because they had given me enough of a scholarship.

"But I felt uneasy about staying when I found out that the United States was about to break off diplomatic ties with Taiwan and recognize the People's Republic of China," Lu said.

"Taiwan was under martial law at the time. There was no freedom of speech. Nobody knew about the impending crisis," Lu said

"But I decided to give up my scholarship, return to Taiwan to face the difficulty with my compatriots and to join the opposition movement. Shortly thereafter, I was condemned to prison," Lu said.

Lu was sentenced to 12 years in prison for her role in what became known as the 1979 Kaohsiung Incident -- now seen as a critical turning point in Taiwan's evolution from a dictatorship under martial law to a democracy.

The vice president praised Yang for his outstanding advocacy in cross-strait affairs and international issues that are also of importance to her.

"I think he is a scholar of conscience and vision. He is very patriotic. I am very moved by that," Lu said.

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