Chinese block aid to families of 1989 victims killed by troops

Money from U.S. donors seized

extortion alleged

February 09, 2000|By NEW YORK TIMES NEWS SERVICE

BEIJING -- Calling such aid a threat to national security, the police have blocked a messenger from delivering $25,000 in foreign donations to help the families of people killed in the crackdown on the 1989 Tiananmen student democracy movement.

The messenger, Lu Wenhe, a Chinese citizen who has lived in the United States for 20 years, was detained in Beijing in late December while on his way to meet Ding Zilin, whose 17-year-old son was shot dead by soldiers in 1989. After three days of questioning in which his passport was confiscated and he was threatened with prison, Lu disclosed the purpose of his visit.

He was taken under police escort to Shanghai, where he has relatives, and told that he could leave the country on the unusual condition that he sign over the donations, which were in an account in the United States, to an officer of the Shanghai State Security Bureau, Lu said in an interview this week.

Under duress, he wrote checks for the entire amount to the officer, Chen Jian. But because the police suspected that he might have the payment stopped after he had left the country, they pressured his 78-year-old father in Shanghai into agreeing to guarantee the payment. Lu returned to the United States Jan. 8.

Donors in the United States did block payment on the check. And now the authorities are pressuring Lu's parents, who were not politically involved, to come up with the money or risk losing their apartment and car.

"This is extortion," Lu said by telephone from Lynchburg, Va., where he is an actuary.

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