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 VOL. 23, NO. 11DECEMBER 5, 1997 

Chinese Dissident Wei Jingsheng to Join Columbia as Visiting Scholar


Wei Jingsheng. Record Photo by Joe Pineiro.
Wei Jingsheng, China's most prominent dissident who was released from prison recently after being held 18 years for advocating democracy, has accepted an appointment as a visiting scholar in the School of International and Public Affairs at Columbia, Provost Jonathan R. Cole has announced.

  While at Columbia, Wei is receiving medical and dental treatment—denied him during his incarceration—at Columbia-Presbyterian Medical Center and Columbia's School of Dental and Oral Surgery, 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 Cole.

  Columbia is providing University housing for 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.

  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. Approximately 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.

  Welcoming Wei at Columbia is 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 Wei's release in meetings with officials in Washington.

  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 Nov. 16 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.