- The Washington Times - Saturday, July 28, 2001

BEIJING — Freed after five months in a Beijing jail cell, Gao Zhan made her source of strength abundantly obvious when she stepped off the airplane Thursday outside Washington.
"With America behind me," the freshly freed American University researcher declared, "I am not scared."
Lately, for imprisoned Chinese with U.S. ties, the drill goes like this: Get detained, get attention, get tried, get deported. But not everybody has a visit to China by Secretary of State Colin L. Powell or a pack of angry supporters in Congress to keep the world's attention focused.
Although China freed Mrs. Gao and Qin Guangguang two days before Mr. Powell's visit today, other, less celebrated intellectuals who ran afoul of the Chinese government remain behind bars — less-coveted pawns in an international game of chess.
"The U.S. government needs to pay attention to other cases, not just U.S. residents," said Frank Lu, who runs the Hong Kong-based Information Center for Human Rights and Democracy. "There are a lot of Chinese citizens being held that people don't talk about."
High-profile arrests and trials like those of Mrs. Gao, Mr. Qin and Li Shaomin, a U.S. citizen released earlier this week, satisfy Western-wary Chinese hard-liners. The eventual releases and expulsions, meanwhile, placate those inside and outside China who lean toward internationalism and human rights. And at this moment in history, Beijing, fresh from its selection as host of the 2008 Summer Olympic Games and eager to welcome the top American diplomat, can afford some magnanimity.
Mr. Li, an American professor of management at the City University of Hong Kong, met yesterday with officials at the State Department to discuss his case and the plight of researchers in China.
He was convicted in China on July 14 of gathering intelligence for Taiwan and ordered expelled a day before Mrs. Gao was deported.
But at the margins of attention sit uncounted Chinese citizens or ethnic Chinese from abroad who either have fewer advocates clamoring for their release or haven't risen to the status of diplomatic chess pieces.
Among them:
Wu Jianmin, a U.S. citizen detained April 8 on suspicion of spying for Taiwan. Mr. Wu wrote frequently for Hong Kong news magazines on Chinese politics and published a book about the Chinese government after pro-democracy protests in Tiananmen Square in 1989.
Xu Wenli, China's most prominent jailed dissident, who suffers from hepatitis and chronic back pain but has been refused medical parole. He is serving a 13-year sentence for trying to form a political party. China has ignored Western pressure for his release.
Rebiya Kadeer, a Muslim businesswoman and ethnic Uighur from China's far-west Xinjiang province. She was sentenced last year to eight years in prison for mailing newspaper reports of anti-Chinese unrest to her husband overseas and trying to give a list of political prisoners to U.S. congressional staff.
Liu Yaping, a permanent U.S. resident arrested March 8 in the northern Chinese city of Hohhot. Mr. Liu, of Weston, Conn., went to China to start up new businesses and is now accused of tax evasion. Family and other sources have said he became entangled in a local power struggle.
Ngawang Choephel, a Tibetan musicologist and former Fulbright scholar serving an 18-year prison sentence on spying charges.
Some rights activists worry that China's leadership may be honing its arrest-and-release techniques to the point of detaining scholars simply so it can strategically release them at crucial diplomatic moments.
"They've become very good at this game," said Xiao Qiang, the New York-based executive director of the group Human Rights in China. "Whoever's at the top of the list becomes a bargaining chip. And attention has been dropped from other, similar cases just because they don't have a green card or get in the spotlight."
Many say the result, as Beijing strains to appease internal critics and avoid annoying President Bush before his visit in October, could be more apparently contradictory behavior.
"It's a form of institutionalized political schizophrenia," said Orville Schell, a noted China scholar and author. "You have an uncontrollable urge to arrest people so they don't push you around, and an equally compelling need to let them go again."
Given the fits and starts that characterize U.S.-Chinese relations, lesser-known detainees could take center stage at any moment.
"The whole thing is very much a ritual," Mr. Schell said.
"There's a very subtle ballet being danced in these arrests," he said, "and the ballet speaks of China's divided self and its divided sentiment — to be strong and maintain control, yet not to push it so far that they're thrown out of polite society altogether."
The United States wants more than a balancing act.
"Just removing one or two cases that might be high-profile cases for the moment isn't enough," Mr. Powell said earlier this week. State Department officials said Mr. Powell will keep pushing for more releases.

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