The United States Wednesday welcomed the early release of a Chinese journalist, Jiang Weiping, imprisoned since late 2000. The State Department said the issue of press freedom and the treatment of journalists will remain on the U.S. agenda with China.
The United States had frequently raised the case of Jiang Weiping, an investigative journalist jailed on subversion charges in 2000, after writing stories for a Hong Kong newspaper alleging corruption among senior officials in a Chinese province.
His release, for good behavior a year before his six-year prison term was to have ended, was welcomed by State Department Spokesman Sean McCormack. But he said the Bush administration will continue to raise concerns about the treatment of journalists and overall press freedoms in China:
Sean McCormack said, "While we do welcome his release, we do have remaining concerns about the ability of a free press to operate in China. We do have concerns about freedom of speech in China. We are going to continue to raise these issues with the Chinese government. It is something that Secretary Rice has raised every time she has had official meetings with her Chinese interlocutors. So I expect that that is going to be something that stays on the agenda."
Mr. Jiang was originally sentenced to eight years in prison on charges of revealing state secrets and inciting subversion, though a higher court later reduced his term to six years.
His name was on a list of 13 prisoners given to Chinese authorities during a 2002 meeting between President Bush and then-Chinese President Jiang Zemin, and his case was raised by U.S. officials at several subsequent high-level meetings.
Director John Kamm of the San Francisco-based Dui Hua Foundation which campaigns for the release of Chinese political prisoners, said the early release of Mr. Jiang could be related to the upcoming U.S. visit by Chinese President Hu Jintao.
State Department Spokesman McCormack, however, said U.S. officials were not drawing a connection between the release and the Chinese leaders' visit, which has not been announced but is expected sometime early this year.
The Paris-based group Reporters Without Borders had also pressed for Mr. Jiang's freedom, and it said his release shows the effectiveness of public statements by Western governments in support of journalists jailed in China.
However the group deplored a stipulation of Mr. Jiang's parole under which he will be deprived of civil and political rights for another three years.
Coincidentally, the group issued its annual press freedom report Wednesday, which says China led the world again last year in jailing journalists and cyber-activists.
Reporters Without Borders said that as of the end of 2005, 32 journalists and 62 Internet dissidents were imprisoned in China, with Cuba in second place with 24 journalists held.
It said one Chinese journalist, Yu Dongyue has been in prison since the violent military crackdown on student protesters in Tiananmen Square in 1989.
The advocacy group said Mr. Yu, serving an 18-year sentence for "counter-revolutionary propaganda," had been driven insane as a result of torture by his jailers.