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China to Allow Interviews Of Prisoners

IN the scramble to win its bid to host the 2000 Olympics, China has reportedly offered to allow an international human rights commission to visit and interview political prisoners.

According to the Paris-based International Federation of Human Rights, Chen Xitong, who heads China's Olympic bid committee, has extended an invitation for a human rights team to investigate reported abuses in China.

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But Chinese officials say they are not aware of the development and would not confirm that an invitation had been issued.

``I asked [Mr. Chen] if we could begin an investigation, travel freely, meet members of the Chinese government, and visit people we have on our list of prisoners,'' explains Daniel Jacoby, president of the organization. ``His reply was an invitation to carry out this mission.''

In a related development, Wei Jingsheng, China's most prominent political dissident, who was released from prison Sept. 14, met reporters for the first time Sept. 20 and said he remains committed to democracy.

Mr. Wei, who was allowed to return to his father's home almost a week after being freed, was jailed for more than 14 years for his role in the Democracy Wall movement of the late 1970s. Due to his solitary confinement and poor nutrition, he said he suffers from a heart ailment.

``Of course, I will definitely continue to fight for democracy and progress in China. But I am still not clear on how I will specifically go about this,'' he said. ``Maybe some of my views are more mature now, but I still have the same views.

``From the first day, I never regretted it,'' he said about his political role, including the writing of his now famous essays advocating democracy and condemning dictatorship. ``What I did was for the good of the whole nation, the good of the people. I think it was worth it. I was ready to make even greater sacrifices.''

He said he backed Beijing's campaign to host the Olympics and urged that ``all factions should cast aside their prejudices and disputes.''

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