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China Denies Mao's Widow Is Free

December 29, 1987|From Times Wire Services

BEIJING — Mao Tse-tung's widow is still in prison, a Justice Ministry spokesman said Monday, denying foreign reports Jiang Qing had been freed.

"She is still in prison. She is still serving her (life) sentence," the spokesman said.

The Hong Kong-based Far Eastern Economic Review reported last week, without citing sources, that Jiang had been released and was living in a Beijing villa in poor health. Rumors of a release have been circulating here.

Jiang, 73, and the three allies who made up the so-called Gang of Four were arrested after Mao's death in 1976 and accused of trying to foment a counterrevolution. Jiang was sentenced to death in January, 1981, but two years later this was commuted to life imprisonment.

The official maintained that Jiang was not in poor health. The Public Security Ministry declined comment.

The Gang of Four were accused of being responsible for the persecution and deaths of thousands during Mao's chaotic Cultural Revolution from 1966 to 1976.

Jiang was the driving force behind the purging of many leading party members, including Deng Xiaoping, who survived two periods of political disgrace to bring her to trial. Deng is now China's senior leader.

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