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Tiananmen Square leader can't visit Hong Kong

Aug. 23, 2008, 6:58 a.m. (ET)

HONG KONG (AP) An exiled student leader who took part in the Tiananmen Square pro-democracy protests in 1989 said Saturday that China has blocked him from visiting Hong Kong to give a talk a day before the end of the Beijing Olympics.

Wang Dan said the Chinese Consulate in Los Angeles refused to accept his application for a visa to visit Hong Kong Saturday because his Chinese passport expired in 2003 - but Chinese officials have also refused to renew his passport. He currently travels using documents issued by the U.S. government.

Wang told reporters in Hong Kong via Internet videoconference that the Chinese government's decision to bar him from the territory showed that it lacked confidence in its rule.

"They're not even comfortable with the little impact an intellectual like me can have in Hong Kong," he said.

Wang said he was also denied a visa to visit Hong Kong in 1999 for an academic conference.

He said he has met with Chinese consular officials in Los Angeles and New York about his passport, but they haven't taken action.

Hong Kong, a former British colony, returned to Chinese rule in 1997, but maintains separate political and financial systems from the mainland and is promised Western-style civil liberties commonly denied in China.

Calls to the Chinese foreign ministry Saturday went unanswered and it didn't immediately respond to a fax seeking comment.

China has deported pro-Tibet activists who have protested at the Olympics in Beijing, which end Sunday. Hong Kong officials have also turned away pro-democracy activists at the airport.

Wang accused China of creating the "illusion" of improving its human rights record during the Olympics.

"But this illusion hasn't lasted long," he said, pointing to the case of two Chinese women in their 70s who were recently ordered to spend a year in a labor camp for trying to lodge a protest during the Olympics.

The women have not yet been sent to the camp.

Olympics organizers promised to create three protest zones in the Beijing during the competition, but authorities said the 77 applications for permits to protest were either withdrawn or rejected.

Wang rose to global prominence as one of the students who led pro-democracy protests in Beijing's Tiananmen Square in 1989. After a deadly crackdown on the demonstrations, Wang was jailed and later went into exile in the United States in 1998.

He recently graduated from Harvard University with a doctorate in history and is looking for a job.

Wang said he had no plans to apply for U.S. citizenship because he still feels an emotional attachment to China.

"I hope to contribute to China's democratization as a Chinese citizen," he said.