Reporters Without Borders welcomed the release of Liu Jingsheng, dissident and founder of the underground magazine Tansuo (Investigation), freed on 27 November two and a half years ahead of the end of his sentence.
But the worldwide press freedom organisation said it was regrettable that the Chinese authorities had waited 12 and a half years before agreeing to an early release.
Liu, 50, was freed from Beijing’s Banbuqiao jail, where he has been held since May 1999. He was previously imprisoned for seven years in the Chinese capital’s Prison n°2.
On leaving prison, Liu told Agence France-Presse (AFP) that he would be deprived of his political and civil liberties for the next four years and that his freedom of expression would be curtailed.
Repeating its appeal for Liu to have his political and civil liberties fully restored, Reporters Without Borders secretary-general Robert Ménard said, ""We hope that Liu Jingsheng will be allowed to express his opinions freely".
Liu’s release comes ten days before a summit between the European Union and China in the Netherlands. Liu’s name was on a list of Chinese political prisoners whose release was being sought by the EU.
He told AFP, "I am an ordinary citizen, I have no ambitions but I am very concerned about the lot of the Chinese people". In answer to a question about whether he would take part in pro-democratic movements, he replied, "This is not a good time to talk about all these things."
He has stomach problems and high blood pressure. He has reportedly lost almost all his teeth.
He was involved in both the Democracy Wall movement in 1979, alongside Wei Jingsheng, and the 1989 Beijing Spring. He constantly campaigned for freedom of expression and Chinese workers’ rights.