Doctor banned from leaving China after betraying state secrecy

A Chinese doctor who broke government secrecy and betrayed the true scale of Beijing's SARS outbreak in 2003 hasn’t been allowed to leave China to accept a human rights award, a rights watchdog said Wednesday.

Jiang Yanyong, 76, was praised as an "honest doctor" by Chinese media after he wrote a letter to reporters saying that Beijing had more than 100 unreported SARS cases. The revelation was followed by embarrassing official admissions and the firing of a Cabinet minister.

Jiang has been awarded the Heinz R. Pagels Human Rights of Scientists Award by the New York Academy of Sciences, but his work unit banned him from leaving China to accept the prize in September, the Hong Kong-based Information Center for Human Rights and Democracy said in a faxed statement.

In rejecting Jiang's request, officials with People's Liberation Army Hospital 301 said the ceremony coincides with the 17th Party Congress, a politically sensitive time, the statement said.

A message seeking comment was left at Jiang's home number. An e-mail seeking comment was sent to the New York Academy of Sciences before business hours Wednesday.

In April 2004, Jiang wrote to China's legislature asking for a reappraisal of the 1989 demonstrations centered around Tiananmen Square, a topic of enormous sensitivity for the ruling Communist Party.

China's leaders have declared the nonviolent protests an anti-government riot and have insisted that the June 3-4 crackdown, in which hundreds - perhaps thousands - died, produced a decade of social stability and economic growth.

A little more than a month after writing the letter, Jiang was taken away from his Beijing home for two months. He was later placed under house arrest for several months, family members have said.