- The Washington Times - Wednesday, December 25, 2002

BEIJING A leading Chinese pro-democracy activist was released from prison yesterday and was on his way to the United States, according to his family and an American activist.
Xu Wenli, jailed since 1998 on charges of endangering state security, was granted early release from his 13-year sentence and flown out of China yesterday, said John Kamm, who has played a role in the release of several Chinese prisoners.
In New York, Mr. Xu's daughter, Xu Jin, was waiting at LaGuardia Airport to fly to Chicago to welcome her father. She hasn't seen him in five years.
"It's a very merry Christmas," said Miss Xu, who teaches at a private high school in Providence, R.I. "I am very happy and anxious to see my parents."
Mr. Xu was arrested in 1998 after trying to set up the opposition China Democracy Party with other activists. The communist government quickly crushed the party and sent dozens of its members to prison.
The release came a week after Lorne Craner, U.S. assistant secretary of state for democracy, human rights and labor, said that he had appealed to Chinese officials during talks in Beijing on human rights to free Mr. Xu.
Mr. Xu, who has hepatitis B, was granted medical parole, Mr. Kamm said. He said that Chinese officials had authorized him to announce Mr. Xu's release.
"This was directly related to the Chinese government's desire to improve relations with the United States," Mr. Kamm said. "The decision was made at a very high level."
Mr. Kamm, a former chemical company executive, runs the Dui Hua Foundation in San Francisco and specializes in collecting information on Chinese prisons.
Mr. Xu's wife, He Xintong, and a U.S. diplomat were traveling with him, Mr. Kamm said by telephone from San Francisco. He wouldn't say to which city they were traveling.
Mr. Xu is the first Chinese convicted of endangering state security to be released early from prison, Mr. Kamm said. Beijing often uses this charge against leading dissidents.
The CNN signal that serves diplomatic compounds and hotels for foreigners in Beijing was interrupted shortly after the start of a report on Mr. Xu's release. The screen went blank for about a minute, and when the signal returned, another report had begun.

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