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WASHINGTON, March 7--In a lengthy interview Friday with Radio Free Asia (RFA), Taiwan Vice President Annette Lu urged the Chinese authorities to free detained dissident Yang Jianli, saying she respected his views all the more because of her own experience as a political prisoner in Taiwan.

"Whether leaders of the People's Republic of China can hear this interview or not, [I urge] our listeners in China to pass on this message to your new leaders: If Taiwan can have democracy, so can Mainland China," she told RFA senior editor Hu Hanqiang. Lu, an outspoken proponent of independence for Taiwan--a self-governing island that Beijing regards as a breakaway province--also chastised Beijing for deploying ever-larger numbers of missiles aimed at Taiwan. Beijing "continues to isolate us diplomatically. The number of missiles aimed at us grows by 50 to 70 a year. Where is their conscience? If you want Taiwan to improve relations with you, you should show goodwill," she said. But she also noted that Chinese leaders "have sounded kinder and gentler� when they speak of Taiwan in recent years," after long decades of heavy-handed rhetoric. Asked if she would consider traveling to Beijing to negotiate on relations between the two rival governments, she replied: "I am very willing to go."

"Mr. Yang Jianli is a talented and well-educated man. Why not cherish such talent by allowing him to participate in building the country instead of condemning him to prison and persecuting him? Mr. Yang Jianli, I don't know if you can hear me, but please be strong," she said.

Yang, a scholar and a permanent U.S. resident, was detained in Kunming, Yunnan Province, on April 26 last year. He was returning to China to investigate workers' protests that had erupted in the northeastern part of the country. Yang's wife, U.S. citizen Fu Xiang, was detained for two days upon arriving in China last May as she tried to visit her husband; she was subsequently expelled from the country.

In an interview with RFA's Uyghur service on Dec. 27, Assistant Secretary of State for Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor Lorne Craner said he had raised Yang's case with senior Chinese officials during a December visit to Beijing. Craner said he had received no indication when Yang might be released.

Yang "reminds me of myself many years ago. In 1978, I was studying at Harvard--and I could have continued my studies there, because they had given me enough of a scholarship. But I felt uneasy about staying when I found out that the United States was about to break off diplomatic ties with Taiwan and recognize the People's Republic of China," Lu said.

"Taiwan was under martial law at the time. There was no freedom of speech. Nobody knew about the pending crisis... But I decided to give up my scholarship, return to Taiwan to face the difficulty with my countrymen, and to join the opposition movement. Shortly thereafter, I was condemned to prison," she said.

"Mr. Yang is very talented. I have read several essays that he wrote. I hope what I say here will not do him any harm, but I think his views on the world, on the future, and on cross-Strait relations, are similar to mine. I think he is a scholar of conscience and vision. He is very patriotic. I am very moved by that," she said. "I feel for Yang Jianli."

Lu was sentenced to 12 years' imprisonment for her role in what is known as the 1979 Kaohsiung Incident--now seen as a critical turning point in Taiwan's evolution from dictatorship to democracy. Lu was among 50 opposition activists jailed for organizing the protest, aimed at pressing for democracy and human rights. She was freed on medical parole after serving five years and three months. To hear Lu's interview with RFA's Mandarin service, click here.

RFA broadcasts news and information to Asian listeners who lack regular access to full and balanced reporting in their domestic media. Through its broadcasts and call-in programs, RFA aims to fill a critical gap in the lives of people across Asia. Created by Congress in 1994 and incorporated in 1996, RFA currently broadcasts in Burmese, Cantonese, Khmer, Korean, Lao, Mandarin, the Wu dialect, Vietnamese, Tibetan (Uke, Amdo, and Kham), and Uyghur. It adheres to the highest standards of journalism and aims to exemplify accuracy, balance, and fairness in its editorial content.


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