Man risks return to China on behalf of jailed friend

December 14, 1990|By Robert Benjamin | Robert Benjamin,Beijing Bureau of The Sun

BEJING — BEIJING -- Ge Xun returned here seeking justice. Yesterday, all he got was the runaround. In the end, he fears, he could be in real trouble.

The 31-year-old Mr. Ge, who has been studying at Texas A&M University for four years, arrived at Beijing's airport Monday and immediately announced that he had come back to see that his friend, jailed dissident Wang Juntao, receives a fair trial.

Mr. Wang, an editor of a now-banned economics journal who was arrested last year for his alleged role in 1989's pro-democracy protests, faces possible execution for plotting to overthrow the government, according to a government notice sent to his family in November. No trial date is known.

Mr. Ge, a doctoral candidate in physics who worked with Mr. Wang from 1982 to 1984 at a Chinese atomic energy institute, read the first Western reports of the charges against Mr. Wang and about a dozen other political prisoners two weeks ago and decided to return to China to attend his friend's trial.

From the start, his quest has met resistance -- even from his own family.

As Mr. Ge was trying to speak to foreign reporters at the airport, his brother-in-law ran up, put a hand over Mr. Ge's mouth to prevent him from speaking and quickly ushered him into a cab, yelling, "Let's go, let's go."

Mr. Ge's mother was not so happy to see him either. The pressure brought on by his sudden mission aggravated her heart condition. He is sleeping at a hotel after she kicked him out of her house.

Back in College Station, Texas, Mr. Ge's wife, Lu Jin, was worried sick about whether he would be allowed to return to the United States.

"It's very dangerous for him to go to China to do this," she said in a telephone interview. "It's crazy."

Mr. Ge acknowledged that, having become accustomed to the U.S. judicial system by observing it on television in the past few years, he may be more than a little naive about the risks he is taking in China by raising an issue authorities want to keep as quiet as possible -- risks that include not being allowed to return to the United States or even joining his friend in prison.

But, he said, "I can only do what I believe is true. I'm not doing anything illegal. I don't want to get arrested. I just want to be able to attend Wang Juntao's trial to see that he gets a fair trial.

"This is a test for the Chinese judicial system. Everything I am doing is in the open. I believe Wang Juntao is innocent. If someone believes he is guilty, they should show the evidence in a trial."

Authorities have not acknowledged any charges against Mr. Wang or other jailed activists, about a dozen of whom reportedly are facing court appearances that probably will be held in secret. Under Chinese law, criminal trials are supposed to be public, but this frequently is not the case.

Thus Mr. Ge, followed by several foreign reporters as well as by plainclothes security agents, set out yesterday morning to try to find out the status of his friend.

First stop was the Beijing Intermediate Court, where he was told to go to Beijing city government offices. There he was told to go to the prosecutor's office at China's Supreme Court. There he was told to go to a public security inquiry office, which he never was able to find.

At the Supreme Court, two court officers ushered him through a gate and, he said, strongly suggested he not talk to foreign reporters.

"What's this guy doing? They're going to lock him up," an amazed passer-by said.

By yesterday afternoon, Mr. Ge knew no more about the fate of Wang Juntao than he had when he first set out on his march through Beijing's streets. Although he vowed to continue his quest today, Mr. Ge was beginning to appear worried.

He began, for example, talking aloud in his hotel room about why he came to China -- so that those listening on the ubiquitous hidden microphones would know he believes he is doing nothing wrong.

"I hope that I can go back to America, but it is no longer under my control," he said. "Right now I am in the Chinese government's hands."

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