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China Releases Tiananmen Military Doctor

July 20, 2004 GMT

BEIJING (AP) _ A Chinese military surgeon who exposed the scope of Beijing’s SARS outbreak and petitioned the government to admit it made mistakes in the 1989 assault on pro-democracy protesters has been released from detention, a U.S. official said Tuesday.

Dr. Jiang Yanyong alarmed Chinese leaders when he wrote a letter dated Feb. 24 urging them to declare the 1989 Tiananmen Square protests a patriotic movement. He asked for a ``resolution of errors committed by our party″ and a reversal of the official verdict that the nonviolent demonstrations were a counterrevolutionary riot.

In Washington, a State Department official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said Jiang had been released. The official didn’t know when the release occurred.

Jiang, 72, and his wife were detained June 1. She was released two weeks later.

Human rights groups welcomed the news of Jiang’s release.

``The detention violated his rights in the first place,″ said Sharon Hom, executive director of New York-based Human Rights in China.

Jiang became known internationally when he broke with government secrecy last year to reveal the true scale of the outbreak of severe acute respiratory syndrome in the capital. His disclosure was followed by the dismissal of China’s health minister and government promises of more openness about the disease.

Human Rights in China said last month that Jiang and his wife had been barred from leaving the country for an annual visit to see their daughter in the United States.

The Chinese government is still extremely sensitive about the Tiananmen Square crackdown. It has never issued a death toll, and others who have appealed for a reversal of the official verdict have been detained and harassed.


Editors Note: Associated Press Diplomatic Writer Barry Schweid contributed to this report.