The Chinese government's official answer to these questions, as expressed in an indictment handed down last month by authorities in Beijing, is that Yang was spying for Taiwan. According to Yang's wife, Christina Fu, and lawyers advising her, the evidence cited for this charge consists of little more than the fact that a foundation Yang ran for a few years until 1994 received funding from donors in Taiwan's Kuomintang political party and that Yang sent $400 to three relatives and one friend on the mainland. More likely, the charge of espionage is intended to get mainland authorities off the hook for their mishandling of Yang's case. They held him for more than a year without allowing him access to a lawyer or to his family andóin violation of China's own lawsórefused during that time to charge him with a crime. But the charge fails to excuse the Chinese. And it fails to provide an honest answer to the question of why Yang, and many other overseas Chinese dissidents, choose to go back.
In the meantime, Yang feared, China was beginning to win its public relations war on human rights. He was outraged when then President Jiang Zemin was invited to visit Harvard. Later came China's accession to the World Trade Organiza-tion and Beijing's winning bid to host the 2008 Olym-pics. In this atmosphere Yang began to experience doubts. "The temptation to see for himself what was really happening at home became stronger and stronger," says Fu, "He was starting to feel too cut off." Yang told a distraught Fu that he'd just take a quick look around and be back in 10 days.
Ironically, his misjudgment has brought the issues he believed the world had forgotten back under the spotlight. Beijing might have achieved his marginalization by simply charging him with illegal entry, sentencing him to a maximum legal prison term of one year and then deporting him. Instead, China's failure to abide by its own laws with regard to due process will remain a constant irritant in its diplomatic relations. The U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for Democracy, Human Rights and Labor, Lorne Craner, calls Yang "one of the particular cases we now mention in all our discussions about political prisoners." But unless Washing- ton and other democratic governments are willing to back up verbal opprobrium with serious diplomatic consequences, China's leaders may never honestly face the difficult truth that Yang came home because he is a patriot.