Sat, Jun 12, 2004 - Page 4 News List

China's `SARS hero' still missing, fears of retaliation mount

REUTERS , BEIJING

The daughter of the military doctor who blew the whistle on China's SARS cover-up last year fears her father's disappearance is no temporary muzzling but that he has been detained and is about to be charged.

Jiang Yanyong (蔣彥永), who disappeared on the eve of the 15th anniversary of the Tiananmen Square Massacre, upset the authorities after writing a letter to top leaders in February asking for a reappraisal of the 1989 pro-democracy protests crushed by the army with heavy loss of life.

"The authorities were gradually building up to their final retaliation against him, possibly in the form of connecting him with overseas hostile organizations and charging him with subversion," daughter Jiang Rui (蔣瑞), who lives in California, said in a statement yesterday.

Analysts said authorities fear if Jiang Yanyong, a hero to many Chinese for exposing the SARS cover-up, is not silenced, others might dare to speak up about the student-led Tiananmen Square protests.

Jiang and his wife disappeared on June 1.

"The public interpretation of my parents' disappearance has been that they were rounded up with the many other dissidents in Beijing, but would be released again as soon as June 4th had passed," Jiang Rui said.

"However, while others were being released, the authorities were asking my brother for my father's dentures," she said, suggesting the semi-retired surgeon may be held longer.

"Now it seems that they merely used the June 4th event as a smokescreen to buy time, perhaps for interrogation purposes, using ... time to wear down my 72-year-old father without too much public pressure," the daughter said.

She said it was "inhumane" to detain her parents without letting her and her brother know their whereabouts.

A government investigation has focused on how Jiang's letter was leaked to foreign media, she said.

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