Wei Jingsheng, 48, was arrested in 1979 for being a dissident--a term he prefers not to be applied to him. The Chinese translation for dissident is one who holds a different view, implying a minority. According to Wei, the minority view is held by the Communist Party leaders; they are the dissidents. When the Berlin Wall fell, Wei was still in prison; he was not released until November 1997. He spent most of his 19 years in jail in solitary confinement. His last cell had glass walls, exposing him at all times to his wardens. The lights were left on 24 hours a day. He was often denied paper and pencil; when he succeeded in writing down his thoughts, his manuscripts were confiscated. He refused to leave prison until everything he had written was returned to him. After his release a compilation of his writings in prison (The Courage to Stand Alone) was published in 1998. He was awarded the Olof Palme Peace Prize in 1995 and the Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought in 1996.

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