"Day After Day in India, Mother Holds Vigil for Son Imprisoned in Tibet" [news story, June 24] described Sonam Dekyi's heart-wrenching efforts to visit her son, Ngawang Choephel, who is serving an 18-year prison sentence in Tibet for a crime he did not commit. In the article, Chinese officials deny any knowledge of Ms. Dekyi or her repeated requests for a visa to travel to Tibet.

It is disingenuous and frankly preposterous for Chinese officials to claim that they have no knowledge of Ms. Dekyi's request. In addition to Ms. Dekyi's daily vigil on the streets of New Delhi and her numerous efforts to obtain a visa from the Chinese Embassy there, she also wrote a March 12 letter to the Chinese Prison Administration's director general about her request. Her plight has drawn international attention.

Clinton administration officials and members of Congress have raised Ms. Dekyi's appeal and her son's case with Chinese officials at the highest levels. On Oct. 6, 1998, 12 senators wrote to the Chinese ambassador to the United States urging him to help ensure that Ms. Dekyi's travel visa to Tibet would be processed and approved without delay.

Since then, I have written another letter to the Chinese ambassador and tried repeatedly to arrange a meeting to discuss her situation with Chinese officials. Neither Ms. Dekyi, nor I nor other members of Congress have received a response from the Chinese government.

Chinese law permits family members to visit their imprisoned relatives. By not granting or even acknowledging her request, the Chinese government fails to respect the rule of law and compounds its egregious error of imprisoning an innocent man by denying a mother the right to see her only son.

PATRICK LEAHY

U.S. Senator (D-Vt.)

Washington