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Exiled Journalist Tries to Show True Stripes of Chinese Tiger

Profiles of Confluence: People drawing US and China closer.

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Exiled dissident Wu Xuecan likes to quote an old Chinese saying: "A tiger becomes real after three people see it."

The adage inspires Mr. Wu, a former Beijing newspaperman now living in Washington, in his painstaking, long-distance effort to break down walls of propaganda and bring objective news to his compatriots back home.

"In China, the official news is neither new nor truthful - it is fake," Wu says over a cup of green tea in his sparse downtown office. "But if [Chinese citizens] hear something from us that rings true - one, two, three times - they will believe it," he says.

Wu says his goal is the same now as when he was an editor in Beijing: to unmask lies and abuses by China's Communist Party.

For the Oct. 29 summit meeting of Chinese leader Jiang Zemin and President Clinton at the White House, Wu planned to join hundreds of Chinese and Tibetan protesters in a high-profile rally he organized to condemn China's human rights violations.

Yet like scores of Chinese dissidents forced overseas after Beijing crushed demonstrations in Tiananmen Square in 1989, Wu usually works in quiet anonymity. More than eight years after Chinese troops stormed Tiananmen, killing hundreds, Wu's life illustrates both the hopes and the hardships of the Chinese exile community.

As an editor at the party mouthpiece People's Daily during the 1980s, Wu sought out articles that challenged orthodox thinking. Then, amid mounting calls for press freedom during the 1989 student-led Tiananmen protests, Wu cast all caution aside. On May 20, the day that martial law was imposed on Beijing, he printed a People's Daily "extra" containing a critical five-point declaration by moderate party leader Zhao Ziyang.

After the June 4 massacre of protesters in Beijing, Wu was placed on China's "most wanted" list and went into hiding. But police detained him on the southern island of Hainan in December, and he was later sentenced to four years in prison for the crime of "counterrevolutionary propaganda and incitement."


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