The pro-democracy movement in China should follow a pattern similar to that in Taiwan during the past 20 years, released Chinese dissident Wang Youcai told RFA in a recent interview.
"I think if in future China can take the same sort of direction that Taiwan did, the process under which they set up opposition parties, I think this is the sort of direction to take," Wang told RFA's Mandarin service after being released on medical parole from the Zhejiang No. 1 Prison in Quzhou City.
Wang was philosophical about the six years he had spent in jail, where he was initially forbidden to talk to anyone but his own guards. "Going to prison is a sure thing at the beginning of this process. The pro-democracy activists in Taiwan also went to jail. There is no way around this," Wang said, adding that he had fully expected to do time for seeking to set up the China Democracy Party (CDP) legally in 1998.
Wang, 37, said he had agreed reluctantly to his release in early March, five-and-a-half years before the end of his 11-year sentence, when prison doctors told him he was seriously ill. "There are some things which are beyond my control," he said. "I will get my health checked out, and if I'm not ill I will try to go back to China."
"This was a matter of great pressure to me. But sometimes things happen that you can't do anything about. At least we trained some people who desire democracy," he said.
Wang, whose release came after months of diplomatic pressure from the United States, said China had many in favor of democracy, both inside the Chinese Communist Party and out. "In the areas of human rights and democracy, there are many people in China who are working hard on them," said Wang, who reluctantly agreed to his release after prison doctors told him he had a serious illness which he could treat either in prison or overseas.
"The Communist Party itself isn't a homogenous entity. There are pro-democracy people there too. So there will be an opportunity. But precisely how it will work out I couldn't say," he said, adding that he was optimistic that democratic change would happen in China.
Wang set up the Zhejiang Branch of the CDP on June 25, 1998 and drew up the group's constitution. He was sentenced in December 1998 to 11 years' imprisonment for subversion by the Hangzhou Intermediate People's Court.
At the time of the interview, he was staying with fellow CDP founder Xu Wenli on Rhode Island. Xu was released on medical parole in December 2002. Co-founder Qin Yongmin is still serving a 12-year sentence for endangering state security in the central province of Hubei Province.
Wang, who coughed frequently during the interview, said he was unsure what was wrong with his health. "I don't feel very well. But I'm not sure about the state of my health. I've had a bit of a cough recently, but I didn't have it in the jail."
"They said either you stay in jail or you go overseas. You decide what to do. I was a bit suspicious. I wanted to see the results of these tests which showed how ill I was. They wouldn't let me take them," he said. "I had to think about what to do. I thought for a very long time. But because I didn't know what was wrong with me, I agreed to go."
He described his isolation as the only political prisoner in an ordinary criminal prison. "They placed restrictions on who I could talk to, and put me under a lot of pressure. Some of the guards, not the ones dealing with me, and other prisoners, were forbidden to talk to me. I think they were afraid that I would start organizing people inside the prison. I found this rather ridiculous. Later on they eased off a bit, but they still made notes of what I said," Wang said.
"I didn't have to work... I felt depressed. But I was otherwise okay. I could read the books that I brought in. I got some of the letters from my family, but not all of them. I knew a little bit about what was being reported outside about me, but not much," he said.
Wang, who also served a year in prison for his role as a student activist during the 1989 Tiananmen Square democracy protests, said he was unsure how he would commemorate the 15th anniversary of the June 4 massacre this year. "Normally I fast for the day. When I think about it my mood becomes very heavy. I really don't know how to speak about it. All the things that we were struggling for in 1989, democracy, freedom and opposing corruption�all of these things were right and justified," he said.
Wang said street politics in China had its drawbacks. "It's easy to move toward a situation of no compromise... But what I found unbearable, what makes me angry...is that the Communist Party dared to mobilize the army to suppress the demonstrations by shooting people. To me, it's impossible to imagine that."#####