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November 26, 1997

Wei Jingsheng, Chinese Dissident, to Join Columbia University as Visiting Scholar

Wei Jingsheng, China's most prominent dissident who was released from prison last week after being held for 18 years for advocating democracy, has accepted an appointment as a visiting scholar in the School of International and Public Affairs at Columbia University, Provost Jonathan Cole announced today, November 26.

While at Columbia in New York City, Mr. Wei is receiving medical and dental treatment -- denied him during his incarceration -- at Columbia Presbyterian Medical Center and Columbia University's School of Dental and Oral Surgery, Dr. Cole said.

"He will join us very shortly. On behalf of the entire Columbia community, I welcome a new colleague and a distinguished voice for human rights," said Dr. Cole.

Columbia is providing University housing for Mr. Wei, and an office at the School of International and Public Affairs. As a visiting scholar, he will pursue his own writings and work in human rights and will give lectures and workshops at the school, Dr. Cole said.

Lisa Anderson, dean of SIPA, said: "The School of International and Public Affairs welcomes this courageous and dedicated man to our community of scholars. The school has a long and distinguished commitment to the study of East Asia and human rights, and Mr. Wei, I am certain, will contribute insight and compassion to our programs in these important fields of study."

Columbia has a long tradition of involvement in and scholarship about China and Asia. About 800 students and scholars from China are working at Columbia in a diverse range of disciplines. Among them, in recent years, was Li Lu, now a Columbia College and Law School graduate, who was among the student leaders of the Tiannamen Square uprising.

The University is home to important centers of scholarship, including the East Asian Institute and the Starr East Asian Library. The Chinese Studies Program began at Columbia in 1905, and for many decades the University has maintained a commitment to the study of Chinese history, culture and language and to the evolution of modern China. Some of the leading China experts in the West are members of the Columbia faculty.

Waiting to greet Mr. Wei at Columbia will be his former assistant, Tong Yi, who came to Columbia this fall to enter a master's program in political science, after her release from prison camp. She has sought Mr. Wei's release in meetings with officials in Washington.

Mr. Wei has spent all but six months since 1979 in prison after writing a 1978 essay suggesting that China's leader, Deng Xiaoping, should expand his campaign to modernize industry, agriculture, science and technology to also include a "fifth modernization" -- democracy. His health deteriorated during this period and he has been treated since his arrival in the United States on Sunday for a variety of medical conditions. The Chinese Government cited his medical condition when it set him free, and his release came two weeks after a state visit to the United States by President Jiang Zemin of China.

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