BEIJING, NOV. 1 -- One of China's most prominent writers and outspoken government critics, Wang Ruowang, 73, was released Monday after being jailed for nearly 14 months for his participation in last year's democracy movement. Reached at his home in Shanghai today, Wang said he was not told why he had been freed, but was informed his case "had not yet been closed."
Authorities told him they would be watching his behavior, instructed him to be available for interrogation at any time, and said he would need permission to travel outside Shanghai. "But, it is good just to be out," Wang said.
After a wave of democracy demonstrations in 1986-1987, Wang was expelled from the Communist Party with two other outspoken intellectuals, astrophysicist Fang Lizhi and journalist Liu Binyan, for advocating "bourgeois liberalization," or Western political and cultural ideas. Liu left China in 1988 and Fang was allowed to leave in April after living for over a year in the U.S. Embassy here.
Wang's release had been rumored this summer, and has been sought by writers from other nations, but it is not clear why authorities chose to free him Monday. "Certainly this is a sign that there is some sensitivity to international opinion," said a Western diplomat.
Hundreds, perhaps thousands, of Chinese involved in last year's democracy movement are believed to remain in prison. The government announced the release of 211 political prisoners in May. Despite a trickle of releases since then, there have been reports that some political detainees were to be put on trial, a Western diplomat said.
Wang, who has spent much of his life in jail, said authorities accused him of "instigating rebellion" in connection with last year's protests but that he has not been formally charged. He joined students in Shanghai in marching for freedom and democracy, wearing a white sash inscribed with his name and the words, "Hearts as hard as steel and stone can only make one sigh and lament," a reference to the Chinese government's hard-line stance against the students.
Wang said he had not been mistreated while detained in a Shanghai prison. He was held with three other prisoners, and once a month was allowed to receive books and newspapers. Visits with family members were not permitted.
He said his eyesight was deteriorating and he had to use a magnifying glass to read while in prison. He also said his hands began to shake badly, making writing difficult. He said he plans to write his autobiography, but when asked whether he would continue to criticize the government, he replied: "I have no intention of doing that. Please understand."