China says arrest of exile doesn't mean policy shift

September 05, 1992|By Robert Benjamin | Robert Benjamin,Beijing Bureau

BEIJING -- In its first detailed comment on the status of detained dissident Shen Tong, China yesterday denied that he has been arrested but accused him of illegal activities -- an accusation that does not offer much hope for his quick release.

The official Xinhua News Agency stressed that Mr. Shen's detention does not change China's new policy of urging Chinese students abroad to return even if they have taken anti-government actions in the past -- so long as they no longer continue to do so.

The news agency said, "Chinese citizen Shen Tong is being put under surveillance and investigation in a residence by [Beijing] police here because of his involvement in illegal activities in collaboration with foreigners."

The statement gave no indication how long this inquiry will take. Such investigations can take several years, while their subjects languish in jails without formal charges.

Mr. Shen, 24, the first leader of the 1989 Tiananmen Square protests to return to China, was taken from his mother's house here early Tuesday -- just hours before he was to announce that he would try to establish a branch of a U.S.-based human-rights group.

Mr. Shen's case poses a dilemma for Chinese authorities, as they have been trying to woo back Chinese students living abroad with promises of no punishment for the students' past political actions.

Xinhua said that this promise rests on the returning students withdrawing from anti-Chinese organizations and not participating in anti- government activities.

China Tuesday and Wednesday expelled two French journalists and an American Sinologist, Ross Terrill.

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