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News and Notes

Chinese Dissidents Honored at RFK Awards Ceremony

On November 18, Ren Wanding and Wei Jingsheng were granted the 1994 Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights Award at a ceremony in Washington, D.C. Established in 1984, the award honors individuals who have fought against overwhelming odds to increase respect for human rights. Because both recipients are currently in prison in China, fellow dissident Liu Qing, who currently heads the New York-based Human Rights in China, accepted the award on their behalf.

Ren Wanding, founder of the China Human Rights League, was a leading figure in the 1978–79 Democracy Wall movement and campaigned for the release of political prisoners during the prodemocracy movement in 1989. He was first detained in 1979 after denouncing the government’s arrest of co-recipient Wei Jingsheng and spent the next four years in prison. He was arrested again as a result of his 1989 activities and is now serving a seven-year sentence. He is reported to be seriously ill.

Wei Jingsheng’s involvement in the Democracy Wall movement led to a 15-year prison sentence, much of which was served in solitary confinement. In September 1993, he was unexpectedly released and promptly resumed his advocacy of human rights. Security forces returned him to prison on 1 April 1994, however, and have held him incommunicado and without charge ever since.

In his acceptance speech, Liu Qing emphasized the inspirational role that both recipients have played in the struggle for the protection of human rights in China. He also reiterated the need for sustained efforts to free the awardees as well as their jailed colleagues.

NSF Report on Democratization

A report prepared for the National Science Foundation entitled Democratization: A Strategic Plan for Global Research [End Page 188] on the Transformation and Consolidation of Democracies has recently been released. The report is a synthesis of the papers and proceedings of a workshop convened at the NSF on 8 December 1993 to determine whether there was a need for a major NSF initiative on democratization. In response to the recommendations outlined in the report, the NSF has allocated $2 million to research on the topic.

Copies of the report and further information can be obtained from Frank Scioli, Program Director, Political Science, National Science Foundation; phone, 703-306-1765, ext. 6995; e-mail, fscioli@nsf.gov.

IPSA Research Committee Formed

A new research committee on “Democratization in Comparative Perspective” was established in September to succeed the International Political Science Association’s study group on the topic that was founded in 1988. The new committee will continue the study group’s exploration of the conditions conducive to the emergence and survival of political democracy, possible strategies for promoting the spread and consolidation of democracy, the various forms that democracy takes in different regions, and theories and models of democratization.

The committee will publish a regular newsletter and has established an electronic bulletin board. Regional conferences are planned for April 1995 (Brazil), late 1995 (India), and 1996 (Eastern Europe, possibly Russia). For membership information, contact Dirk Berg-Schlosser, Institute of Political Science, Philipps-University, 35032 Marburg, Germany; phone, 064-21-28-43-97; fax, 064-21-28-89-13; e-mail, BERG-SCH@nws.fb03.Uni-Marburg.DE.

Democratization Research Fellowships

The National Science Foundation has awarded the University of California, Irvine, a five-year fellowship grant of $112,500 per year to support Ph.D. students doing research in the field of democratization and democratic politics. The NSF fellowships will be available to students entering graduate programs in the fall of 1995 and subsequent years. For more information, contact NSF Graduate Training Fellowships, Focused Research Program on Democratization, School of Social Sciences, University of California, Irvine, CA 92717.

Three Conferences Focus on the Americas

The United States Information Agency and the North-South Center of the University of Miami sponsored a three-day encuentro (November 11–13) in Annapolis, Maryland, entitled “A New Moment in the Americas.” The conference [End Page 189] was based on the premise that Latin America and the United States have reached a historical watershed. A new convergence around free markets, democracy, and respect for cultural differences now presents an...