08/07/2004, 00.00
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China prevents SARS doctor from receiving "Asian Nobel Prize"

Manila (AsiaNews) – "We are not sure that Dr Jiang Yanyong can come to Manila for the award ceremony on September 1," a spokesperson for the Ramon Magsaysay Award Foundation told AsiaNews.

Dr Jiang is one of seven Asian personalities chosen by the Magsaysay Foundation for the most important Asian award known as "Asia's Nobel Prize".

The Board of trustees elected the Chinese doctor to receive the award for his spirit of public service referring to "his brave stand for truth in China, spurring life-saving measures to confront and contain the deadly threat of SARS."

Dr Jiang, a retired surgeon, wrote in April 2003 an open letter to the press revealing the true SARS figures. In doing so he took the risk of breaking the code of silence imposed by the Chinese government. For his act Dr Jiang received the support of many doctors and the World Health Organisation. Chinese authorities quickly followed suit and launched a massive prevention campaign against the virus.

"A small dose of truth can sometimes make all the difference, especially in societies where speaking out is not the norm," read the citation of the Ramon Magsaysay Foundation. "In China, for example, stability is highly prized and, with it, restraint. It is rare for someone to contradict the authorities openly. Dr Jiang did just that."

Dr Jiang was arrested on June 1 along with his wife for sending a letter to China's leaders asking them to acknowledge that the Tiananmen protests were a "patriotic movement". "Let us correct the errors of the Party," he wrote.

Given the circumstances it is not certain that the Chinese government will let Dr Jiang go to Manila to receive the award in person and speak about the fight against SARS in China. (S.E.)

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