By Nora Boustany
Washington Post Foreign Service
Thursday, August 7, 2008
A prominent exiled Chinese activist, Yang Jianli, was barred from entering Hong Kong after he arrived from Japan yesterday, according to his wife and American contacts he reached later by cellphone. Yang, a U.S. permanent resident, had planned to take part in a two-day walk in Hong Kong in support of human rights in China.
Passport control officers tried to put Yang on a plane back to Tokyo, but he refused, demanding to go to China instead, his wife, Christina Fu, said by telephone from Boston. Yang was carrying an airline ticket for Taiwan, and suspicious airport officials told him Hong Kong was not a practical stopover, Fu added.
Zhou Jian, another activist, was also blocked from entering Hong Kong as he tried to clear customs yesterday, according to Zhang Xiaogang, a dissident who was able to enter earlier, the Reuters news service reported. Fu said her husband and another man were being held together at the airport detention center.
"I am a Chinese citizen with a valid Chinese passport. As such, I have every right to enter and travel in my country," Yang said in a statement made available by the U.S. rights group Initiatives for China. Hong Kong and China became one country, operating under two systems, in 1997, making Hong Kong accessible to all Chinese citizens.
Fu said she had contacted the State Department and a U.S. consular official before finalizing her husband's itinerary to make sure he could travel to Hong Kong without complications ahead of the Olympic Games. Yang had visited Hong Kong in March and encountered no problems. Fu said it was "obvious" Beijing had pressured Hong Kong authorities to turn her husband back.
If allowed to enter Hong Kong, he said in his statement, he had hoped to continue by train to Sichuan, the province devastated by a powerful earthquake in May, to visit with residents and explore the feasibility of building an elementary school there with private funds.
"Whatever rationale the Chinese government has for now blocking my entry . . . it is beyond the bounds of national and international law," Yang said.
In 2002, Yang, a participant in the Tiananmen Square protests, traveled to China on a friend's passport after Chinese authorities refused to renew his. He was arrested and jailed for five years on charges of spying for Taiwan but regained his passport and remains a Chinese citizen. In an interview on his return to the United States last year, Yang said he wrote 120 poems in his head while imprisoned to keep his memory sharp.
The Chinese activist, now a senior fellow at Harvard, said at the time that he worried about his family but could not rule out future dissident activity.