BEIJING, JAN. 1 -- Communist Party leaders have partially rehabilitated a dissident astrophysicist and a leading muckraking journalist, ousted from the party a year ago, by nominating them to join an advisory group, Chinese sources said.
Scientist Fang Lizhi and writer Liu Binyan both indicated that if formally invited, they probably would join the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference, an umbrella organization representing various noncommunist political and social groups.
Conference officials said that final confirmation would have to wait until March, when the group reconvenes. The two men have not received formal notification that they have been nominated.
Friends said the nominations of two intellectuals who have criticized the Communist Party were a sign that the party is willing to tolerate a greater diversity of views since a party congress held at the end of October.
One ridiculed the nominations as "a superficial move made for public relations reasons," because the consultative body has no real power.
The sources also said that Liu Binyan will be allowed to travel to the United States this spring to deliver lectures and to participate in the Nieman Foundation program for journalists at Harvard University.
Liu, 62, has said that a few more bureaucratic steps remain before he can get final permission from the Chinese government to travel overseas.
Liu was expelled from the party last January after being accused of attacking Marxism and vilifying the party. As an investigative reporter, Liu has written numerous reports describing corruption among some party officials.
For the past year, Liu has been unable to get his work published. But he said recently that he is again being asked by a number of journals to submit articles to them.
Liu told a reporter for the Hong Kong Standard a few days ago that despite an official ban on the sale of his new book, "Tell You a Secret," 10,000 copies of the book had recently sold out.
"I don't know how they did it," Liu was quoted as saying. "Possibly it was sold on the black market."
While Liu has been unable to travel or work normally, astrophysicist Fang Lizhi, who also was expelled from the party in January, has been allowed to travel and continue his academic work.
But while Liu is said to have maintained his party loyalty, Fang has declared on several occasions that his faith in the party has vanished.
Fang, 51, gave an interview to the West German magazine Der Spiegel during a visit to Italy last summer in which he said that Marxism is "no longer of much use" and that the Communist Party has "achieved nothing of value during the past 30 years."
Fang was accused by the party of inciting student demonstrators and calling for the "complete westernization" of China. He told friends recently that he has given up none of his beliefs and continues to see a need for democracy here.