BEIJING -- China announced yesterday that it was freeing one leader of the 1989 Tiananmen Square protests and dropping charges against another.
The move was indicated privately during U.S. Secretary of State James A. Baker III's visit two weeks ago, and it has spawned some hope for further leniency toward other political prisoners.
In a brief statement titled "China releases two rioters," the state news agency said that Wang Youcai had been paroled from a four-year sentence because of his "repentance" and that charges against Han Dongfang had been dropped.
Mr. Wang, 25, a former postgraduate student at Beijing University, was 15th on the list of 21 most-wanted student leaders after the brutal crackdown on the 1989 demonstrations.
Mr. Han, 27, a former railroad worker who organized China's first independent labor union during the protests, is seriously ill with tuberculosis and had been released last April for medical treatment. Like many political prisoners, he had not been tried, and China said yesterday that he has been "exempted from prosecution."
China indicated privately to U.S. officials during Mr. Baker's recent visit that the two men might soon be free from further punishment, diplomatic sources confirmed here earlier this week.
Mr. Baker pressed China to release all imprisoned dissidents, but he only came away with information about some of those on a U.S. list of more than 800 political prisoners.