TORONTO – A Chinese journalist whose reports on government corruption got him jailed for five years said Monday that despite being released from prison in 2006, he didn't taste freedom until he arrived in Canada last week.
Jiang Weiping was only allowed to leave China two weeks ago when his passport was returned to him. The Canadian government granted Jiang a rare order offering asylum if he got to the Canadian embassy in Beijing.
He was reunited last week in Toronto with his wife and 19-year-old daughter, who have been in Canada since 2004. It was their unfailing support that kept Jiang going during his imprisonment.
"My daughter sent letters and poems to me. She wrote: 'Dad, we will be able to enjoy a blue sky after the storm,"' Jiang said at a news conference, where he spoke through a translator.
"This gave me the courage to stand firm in my belief in the most difficult time. This morning, when I opened the window, I saw a beautiful blue sky with white clouds."
Jiang said it was with a heavy heart that he accepts his newfound freedom. He said he can't help but turn his thoughts to all the people still in jail in China and elsewhere simply because of thoughts they expressed or words they wrote.
"I've found it hard to sleep the last few days because I feel a deep sense of accountability to them," Jiang said.
Jiang was detained in 2000 and sentenced in June 2001 after writing articles for a Hong Kong magazine in 1999 accusing the governor of the northeastern province of Liaoning of covering up corruption. A court later cut his sentence to six years from eight years ahead of a planned U.S. visit by President Hu Jintao.
The governor, Bo Xilai, ended up as China's commerce minister.
Jiang was convicted under China's vague state secrets law, which has been used recently against other journalists.
Jiang said his years in jail only served to strengthen his vision for a free press in China and he now more than ever believes that the voices of people suffering there must be heard above the din of the "rampant corruption."
"The road to press freedom in China will be long and difficult, and it will demand commitment from generations of journalists," Jiang said. "It takes enormous courage to speak out against those in power. But this is no excuse for media workers to ignore their duty. A free press is an effective means of preventing officials from abusing their power."
Jiang said he will continue to speak out for press freedom in his homeland from his new home of Canada. He plans to write books about his experience as a journalist in China and also about his experiences in jail there.