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WPFC applauds release of Gao Yu

(WPFC/IFEX) - The following is a WPFC letter to Chinese officials,
applauding the release of Gao Yu, while noting that this single
high-profile release cannot be seen as a fundamental improvement in
China's policy toward the media:

**Updates IFEX alerts of 16 February 1999, 5 October, 21 September, 30
June, 22 June and 21 April 1998, 28 October, 6 June and 9 April 1997, 20
January 1995, 14 November and 18 October 1994**

16 February 1999

Zhu Rongi
Premier, State Council
People's Republic of China
Beijing, China

Dear Prime Minister Zhu,

On behalf of the World Press Freedom Committee, which includes 44
journalistic organizations on six continents, I applaud the release of
journalist Gao Yu, who has been imprisoned in China for nearly six

I sincerely hope that this release is just the first of many such
releases of writers who have been imprisoned for practicing what in the
free world is considered basic journalism.

Unfortunately, past experience suggests that this release of Gao Yu
might be little more than a gesture designed to avert criticism by the
United Nations Human Rights Commission and to head off embarrassing
comments by U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright during her
upcoming visit. We hope this is not the case.

Mr. Prime Minister, we understand that China wants to be considered a
full-fledged member of the international community, respected by all
nations of the world. However, this can never be -- and China can never
fully realize its vast human potential -- while authorities seek to
control the public discourse necessary for the functioning of a
representative society. Government efforts to control news suggest a
fear of public opinion; yet governments need to foster open discussion
of issues in order to make prudent decisions.

Like all members of the United Nations, China is bound by the principles
of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, including its Article 19,
which states: "Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and
expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without
interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas
through any media and regardless of frontiers."

I urge your administration to unleash the vitality of a full and free
flow of ideas in China by leaving journalism to journalists, and by
recognizing the legitimate role a free press plays as a watchdog on
governments. The resulting rich exchange of information and public
opinion can only make your nation more socially healthy, more
economically prosperous and more respected by the rest of the world.


Marilyn J. Greene
Executive Director
World Press Freedom Committee

cc:President Jiang Zemin
Secretary of State Madeleine Albright
Ambassador Li Zhaoxxing
U.S. Ambassador Jim Sasser

Similar appeals should be sent to:

Appeals To

Zhu Rongi
Premier, State Council
People's Republic of China
Beijing, China
Fax: 86 10 6 512 5810

Please copy appeals to the source if possible.

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