YOU ARE HERE: LAT HomeCollections

China Dissidents Reported to Flee Via 'Escape Tunnel'

June 27, 1989|MARK FINEMAN and DAVID HOLLEY | Times Staff Writers

HONG KONG — Declaring that an underground "escape tunnel" has been established for Chinese dissidents, local and Western media sources here reported today that pro-democracy student leader Wuer Kaixi and two key Chinese intellectuals have been smuggled out of China and into this British colony.

Wuer, who emerged at the forefront of China's crushed pro-democracy movement after criticizing China's hard-line Premier Li Peng on government television at the height of the protests, fled to safety four days ago through the nearby Portuguese colony of Macao and then into Hong Kong, the Hong Kong Standard newspaper reported.

The 21-year-old leader from Beijing Teachers University is among 21 students on the government's most-wanted list, which was created after the government and army suppressed the protest movement in the capital on the night of June 3-4.

The newspaper also reported that hundreds of soldiers from China's People's Liberation Army were moved to checkpoints near the Macao border last week.

In a separate report, the Associated Press in Hong Kong said that three other dissidents also have fled China through the "underground railroad."

One of them is Wan Runnan, a businessman who heads an innovative Chinese computer firm and who has close links with reformers centered on former Communist Party chief Zhao Ziyang. No public charges had been leveled at Wan, but he was believed to be on a list of Zhao supporters targeted for arrest. The report said he had left for the United States.

Another is Yan Jiaqi, leader of the Beijing Independent Intellectuals Assn., which also joined in the movement. He escaped through Hong Kong and is now in France, the AP said, quoting a student activist and an unnamed diplomatic source in the colony.

The third, AP said, is Li Lu, a student from Nanjing University who is also one of the 21 student leaders being sought.

Hong Kong officials, who have allowed huge weekly demonstrations supporting the Beijing student movement and permitted the placing in a downtown park of a replica of the Goddess of Democracy statue that served as a rallying point in Beijing's Tian An Men Square, had no official comment.

Hong Kong's usual practice for those fleeing the Chinese mainland for the island citadel of capitalism is to seek to prevent their entry. Military and police patrols, aided by listening devices, try to catch those crossing the border. If caught, the would-be emigrants are detained--about a dozen are arrested daily--and returned to China within 24 hours.

Peace Corps Delayed

In another development, a U.S. Embassy spokesman in Beijing said this morning that China has decided to postpone the start of a U.S. Peace Corps program in China.

Twenty Americans had been due to arrive this summer to prepare to teach English at Chinese institutions in the fall. The agreement had been seen as a breakthrough marking growing friendship between the two nations.

Those ties are now strained by U.S. criticism of China's fierce crackdown on pro-democracy protesters and by an American decision to grant refuge in the U.S. Embassy in Beijing to astrophysicist Fang Lizhi, China's most prominent pro-democracy advocate, and his wife. The postponement of the Peace Corps program appeared to reflect these tensions.

"We got a letter from the China Education Assn. for International Exchanges (the Chinese host for the Peace Corps program), and they've told us that for the time being, they want to postpone the program," U.S. Embassy spokesman Andy Koss said. "It's not canceled. . . . We don't know how long this will be postponed."

Koss declined to comment on whether the action was linked to the Fang issue. "We really don't have any indications of what's behind it," he said. "We just got a very straightforward note that they want to postpone it. Anything else is conjecture."

Meanwhile, the official New China News Agency announced Monday evening that the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress, China's nominal legislature, will meet beginning June 29 to endorse the decisions taken by the party leadership.

In the first few days after the bloody June 3-4 crackdown that ended seven weeks of escalating pro-democracy protests, some reformist students and intellectuals in China had hoped that the National People's Congress could serve as a power base for a reformist resurgence.

Monday's announcement, however, made it clear that delegates to the Congress will operate under severe restrictions. "It is decided that the Standing Committee meeting will be guided by the principles adopted" at a Saturday meeting of the Party's 170-member Central Committee, the agency reported.

The Congress, according to the report, is scheduled to:

-- Endorse the various decisions taken by the Communist Party on Saturday, including the elevation of Shanghai party chief Jiang Zemin to replace Zhao as general secretary.

Los Angeles Times Articles