- The Washington Times - Saturday, April 28, 2007

BEIJING (AP) — A U.S.-based Chinese activist has been released after serving a five-year prison term on charges of spying for rival Taiwan and entering China illegally, his lawyer said yesterday.

The U.S. government had appealed to Beijing to free Yang Jianli, who was detained in 2002 while traveling around China meeting with activists and laid-off workers.

Mr. Yang was released Friday and planned to visit his father’s grave in eastern China before returning to the United States, said his lawyer, Mo Shaoping.

He said Mr. Yang could not talk to reporters because he was officially deprived of political rights for another year.

Mr. Yang was on a U.S. government list of people imprisoned in China for political reasons and was cited regularly in speeches by the American ambassador to Beijing, Clark T. Randt.

A group of 40 U.S. senators wrote to China’s legislature in 2004 saying he had been tortured. His family said he suffered a stroke in prison.

Chinese authorities rejected the appeals, saying Mr. Yang was healthy and being treated in line with Chinese law.

Mr. Yang became eligible for parole in late 2004 but served his full prison term. Mr. Mo said that twice last year authorities suggested releasing Yang on parole, possibly for “diplomatic or political reasons,” but did not follow through.

Mr. Yang is a Chinese citizen who has lived in the U.S. since 1986. His family lives in Brookline, Mass.

Mr. Yang founded the Foundation for China in the 21st Century, which advocates political change in China. Communist authorities view such groups as threats to their monopoly on power.

The espionage charges appear to stem from four $100 grants given to student researchers. Chinese prosecutors said the grants were funded by someone in Taiwan’s government. The island split with China in 1949 and the two spy actively on each other.

Mr. Yang’s family denied the spying accusations but acknowledged he was traveling in China with a friend’s identity card, making his entry into the country illegal.

They said Mr. Yang was forced to do so because he was banned from China after participating in the 1989 pro-democracy protests centered on Tiananmen Square.

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