WASHINGTON, March 28, 2003--Tibet's longest-serving female political prisoner, Ngawang Sangdrol, has obtained an exit visa from the Chinese government and is en route to the United States, Radio Free Asia (RFA) has learned.

Ngawang Sangdrol left China earlier Friday after securing a visa permitting her to seek medical treatment in the United States, sources in Asia told RFA's Tibetan service.

No further details were immediately available, and the circumstances surrounding her departure from China were unclear. In the past, China has released or exiled prominent dissidents ahead of high-level meetings with U.S. officials, and U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney is expected to visit China in April.

Ngawang Sangdrol, a Buddhist nun who is now in her late 20s, was first detained at age 13. She was paroled from Lhasa�s notorious Drapchi Prison on Oct. 18, 2002, nine years before completing her sentence, for good behaviour. A nun at the Garu nunnery, she took part in pro-independence demonstrations in Lhasa in 1987-88. Ngawang Sangdrol�s sentence was extended three times to a total of 21 years after she and other nuns engaged in prison protests.

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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