Chinese Writer Says Fled China Fearing Arrest


July 2, 2001

Chinese Writer Says Fled China Fearing Arrest


Filed at 11:43 p.m. ET

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - An outspoken Chinese writer who has fled China said on Monday she feared she was about to be arrested as part of a crackdown on intellectuals being branded by Beijing as foreign spies.

In an interview with Reuters, He Qinglian, whose work has been banned from publication, said she fled for the United States because she was convinced that state security forces were building a case against her that would lead to her arrest at customs as she left for a sabbatical in the United States.

The writer said she was under heavy surveillance ahead of her trip and her apartment was broken into several times.

Items taken included a cell phone bought for convenience on a trip to the United States as well as foreign correspondence and copies of letters of invitation from institutions overseas, including from China's rival Taiwan, she said. Pictures of her with Americans on her U.S. trip were also taken, she said.

``When I linked all these things together, the search action indicated toward a certain direction, toward foreign ties,'' she said through an interpreter.

Up until that point she had not been concerned because she felt the government would be glad to be rid of her, she said.

Within two years of the 1998 publication of ``Pitfalls of Modernization,'' once lauded by Beijing's top leaders, He had been sidelined to the research department of her newspaper in the southern industrial city of Shenzhen, and an unofficial ban on publishing her work became official in December.

In the past two months, one of the southern province of Guangdong's most popular daily newspapers was reprimanded for publishing an article based on an interview with He.

The foreign link made He recall the cases of overseas Chinese who have been charged with espionage, she said.

``At that moment I was grasped by a huge fear,'' she said.

Among those detained are Li Shaomin, a U.S. citizen and associate professor at the City University of Hong Kong, and permanent U.S. resident Gao Zhan, an American University researcher who has not been heard from since her husband and son were separated from her on Feb. 11.


The surveillance on He was so heavy-handed after she received the invitation letter from the University of Chicago and U.S. visa in April that a young woman was assigned to accompany her every morning as she went from her apartment and down the elevator to the bus stop.

She said on the morning of June 14 she pretended to head for work but then called in to say she was going to the hospital because she was sick. Instead she went to Guangzhou, the provincial capital, and on to Beijing with just a handbag and a plastic bag of newspapers.

He's departure comes amid a month-long crackdown on media that has included closures of publications that made ``political errors'' and orders to stop independent newsgathering by regional media on sensitive issues such as corruption.

In He's ``Pitfalls of Modernization,'' called a publishing sensation, she wrote that 20 years of market reforms started by late paramount leader Deng Xiaoping resulted in the looting of state property and a society of haves and have-nots.

She said the change in the Chinese government was in the way it went about cracking down. In the past, it launched ``campaigns'' like the ``anti-bourgeois liberalization'' campaign of the 1980s. She said those no longer work.

``Now the regime changes strategy, charging intellectuals as foreign spies,'' she said. It is hard to clear oneself of that charge, she said, ``because under the propaganda of nationalism, the people hate people working as foreign spies.''

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