Madeleine Albright's Hot Line to China

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If you want to leave a message for Comrade Jiang Zemin, please press 1; if you want to leave a message for Comrade Zhu Rongji, please press 2... Madeleine Albright and her Chinese counterpart today agreed to create a "hot line" linking the Oval Office to Beijing's Zhongnanhai leadership compound.

Human rights issues top Albright's agenda on a Beijing trip to prepare the way for President Clinton's June visit. "The U.S. needs to get more dissidents freed to show that the policy of engaging with Beijing is working," says TIME correspondent Douglas Waller.

The recent releases of Wei Jingsheng and Wang Dan has been a high-profile concession to U.S. demands, and Albright is pressing for the release of 2,000 remaining political prisoners. "China has been releasing them in dribbles," says Waller, "and there will probably be a few more ahead of Clinton's visit."

Beijing has managed to reduce the political cost of such concessions by dispatching released dissidents into the oblivion of exile.