In an unprecedented move, China today presented its public security minister to the foreign press at an informal lunch. The meeting provided little information about the secretive Public Security Ministry, but it did give reporters a rare look at the person who heads the powerful organization.
The unusual appearance by Ruan Chongwu seemed to be designed to take some of the hard edge off the negative image of the dreaded ministry, China's main police body.
The one item of news provided by Ruan concerned Jiang Qing, the imprisoned widow of the late chairman Mao Tse-tung. The minister said the former leader of the "Gang of Four" that dominated China during the Cultural Revolution of 1966 to 1976 was in good health and spends her days reading in a jail cell in Peking's northern suburbs.
Ruan said Jiang, an ex-actress who wielded vast power as Mao's wife, was incarcerated at Qincheng, about 30 miles north of Peking.
Ruan, 53, has responsibility for 1.2 million police officers under his control, who engage in patrolling, guard duties and "maintaining social order."
Ruan is one of China's new technocrats, an automotive engineer who has served as a deputy mayor of Shanghai and as science and technological attache in West Germany. He has been the public security minister for slightly more than nine months.
Asked to comment on the whereabouts and health of Wei Jingsheng, a dissident who was arrested during the democracy movement of 1978-79 for wall posters criticizing the communist political system and committing "counterrevolutionary" crimes, Ruan said, "It's only you foreigners who pay attention to him. He's not well known in China at all."
Ruan also said there was "not one" person imprisoned in China because of political views.