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China frees a nun thought to be Tibet's longest-serving female political prisoner. - 2004-02-26


China is reported to have freed a Tibetan nun thought to be Tibet's longest-serving female political prisoner.

A U-S-based Tibetan activist, John Kamm, says the woman -- 37-year-old Phuntsog Nyidron -- was freed Tuesday after serving 15 years at the notorious Drapchi prison in Lhasa. Phuntsog Nyidron was arrested in 1989 along with several other nuns after they staged a peaceful demonstration to support their exiled spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama.

Her nine-year sentence and that of 13 other nuns were extended after they secretly recorded a tape of songs promoting freedom. That tape was smuggled out of Drapchi, and its release angered China's communist government.

Mr. Kamm says Phuntsog Nyidron had been due for release a year from now, but that her sentence was reduced. Many senior U-S officials and members of Congress had lobbied China to free her.

Activists say they still expect her to be put under surveillance.

In its annual report of human rights abuses around the world, the U-S State Department Wednesday mentioned Phuntsog Nyidron's detention as an example of what it called China's poor record in Tibet.

A Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Thursday criticized the human rights report. She said China has made some universally recognized achievements in human rights.

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