Beijing (AsiaNews) - The doctor who was the first to expose the SARS epidemic in Beijing has asked the Party to apologize for arresting him after his criticisms about the Tiananmen massacre. In a letter addressed to the general secretary of the Communist Party and to the Politburo, which has been obtained by AsiaNews, Jiang Yanyong asks the authorities to "correct their mistakes and issue an apology."
The letter is dated "February 6, 2009." In it, Jiang Yanyong specifically accuses the chief of the military commission at the time, former president Jiang Zemin, of having arrested him in violation of the country's Constitution, that of the Party, and the disciplinary rules of the army.
Jiang Yanyong, 77, is a doctor who works in the army, at hospital 301 in Beijing. In 2003, at the height of the SARS epidemic, he was the first to expose its presence, forcing the government to admit the problem and to oust the health minister and the mayor of the capital, who had kept the epidemic and its gravity hidden for months. Thanks to his exposé, and to the measures taken, the epidemic was contained within a few months, saving many lives. Although he communicated with foreign journalists (an activity prohibited for members of the Party, without authorization) he was considered a national hero.
But in February of 2004, he sent another letter, to the National People's Congress, demanding the rehabilitation of the students and workers in the democratic movement of 1989, which ended with the massacre in Tiananmen Square on June 4. In the letter, Jiang, who at the time was at the hospital caring for those injured in the clashes, accuses the military of using weapons banned by international conventions, and also accuses the government of having "duped" the soldiers, making them believe that they had to put down uprisings and "counterrevolutionaries." In this second letter, he asked that the victims of Tiananmen be honored with the title of "patriot."
Because of this, on June 1, 2004, he was apprehended by the police and kept at a military "guesthouse." For about 10 months, he was subjected to interrogations and "study sessions" in order to "understand and correct" his errors. He was then brought home, but was kept under house arrest, and is under investigation for "creating rumors that demonize the party and the state."
In his letter to Hu Jintao and to the Politburo, Jiang demands that he be given back his right to travel abroad (his daughter, Jiang Rui, lives in California). In a veiled accusation against the rhetoric of Hu Jintao, he says that only through an official apology and the restitution of his rights "will they be in compliance with the ideals of the Party's leadership: 'rule by law', 'the people first' and 'harmonious society'."