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Chinese arrange tour to see political prisoner

Published Oct. 6, 2005

Five reporters went on a government-arranged trip to a remote prison that houses a leader of the 1989 Tiananmen Square protests, but they were not allowed to speak to him.

While prison officials denied that Liu Gang, 33, or any other prisoners were tortured, as alleged by human rights groups, the reporters could not verify that for themselves, according to notes of the trip distributed Saturday on their return to Beijing.

The five reporters who went to the Lingyuan No. 2 Labor Reform Detachment in Liaoning Province were shown videotapes of Liu, who was third on the list of most-wanted students after the army crushed the pro-democracy protests on June 4, 1989. He was sentenced to six years in jail in 1991.

At one point, officials told the reporters to go to a window where they could see Liu walking with guards. They were then shown Liu smoking a cigarette and talking to guards on a closed-circuit television link that had no sound.

Human rights groups and Liu's family members have alleged the dissident has suffered from a wide range of physical and psychological torture.

"This has never happened, not only to Liu Gang but to others," warden Xin Tingquan told the reporters. "We are a civilized prison which operates according to the law."

One reporter on the trip said Liu looked overweight and had bad skin.