China reportedly held journalists during Baker visit

November 18, 1991|By Robert Benjamin | Robert Benjamin,Beijing Bureau of The Sun

BEIJING -- Two Chinese women, including a leading dissident journalist, were believed to have been arrested over the weekend during the visit here by U.S. Secretary of State James A. Baker III.

In preparation for Mr. Baker's visit, diplomats from the U.S. Embassy had contacted well-known journalist Dai Qing last week about possibly meeting Mr. Baker privately.

Ms. Dai was apparently reluctant, and plans for that meeting were never firmed up.

But about noon Saturday, when she went to a Beijing hotel in an attempt to recontact the embassy, she was taken into custody by Chinese police, according to a friend of her family and to a U.S. magazine reporter, Emily MacFarquhar.

Ms. Dai was to be returned home today, family members told Reuters.

Another Chinese woman, Hou Xiaotian -- married to a leading jailed dissident, Wang Juntao -- was also contacted by the embassy about a possible meeting with Mr. Baker and reportedly could not be located yesterday.

Friends feared that she had been arrested.

Ms. Hou has already been released, Reuters reported.

Ms. Dai, 50, spent 10 months in jail after the 1989 Tiananmen Square massacre and has been barred from leaving China to accept a prestigious Nieman Fellowship at Harvard University.

As a reporter for a Chinese newspaper, Guangming Daily, she gained prominence for her critical articles on government proposals and for her lobbying for press freedom and an amnesty for political prisoners. Since her release from prison in May 1990, she has not been allowed to return to work.

But colleagues from her former paper, whom she had not seen for more than two years, showed up at her apartment Friday night with a sudden demand that she resume reporting by immediately taking an out-of-town assignment, a friend of her family said last night.

The offer was an apparent effort to prevent Ms. Dai from meeting Mr. Baker. She refused to go back to work, and Saturday morning she was seeking to get in touch with the U.S. diplomats who had first contacted her, said Ms. MacFarquhar.

Friday night, a senior U.S. official traveling with Mr. Baker said that setting up a meeting between him and a Chinese dissident had been considered but dismissed as too risky for the activist.

Informed of Ms. Dai's arrest during his brief news conference last night, Mr. Baker said, "If it's true, that would be distressing news."

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