Fifteen Seconds of Fame

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NEW YORK: Ive waited for decades for the right to exercise my freedom of speech, said newly free Chinese dissident Wei Jingsheng Friday, at his first press conference since arriving in the U.S. The U.S. media did not have quite the same patience, however. CNN for one cut away to the Iowa septuplets within minutes of Weis starting to speak. And this may illustrate Weis dilemma as a Chinese dissident in exile.

As Stalin asked sarcastically when it was suggested that the Pope join the Yalta talks: How many divisions does he command? Wei had been one of the most celebrated opponents of the Communist regime in Beijing, but freedom and exile may propel him into the political wilderness.

A lot of the drama that he brings to the story as a prisoner of conscience is gone now that hes out, says TIME correspondent Jay Branegan. The U.S. establishment wants to expand its relationship with China, he adds and although theres an opposition in exile, its not well organized.

Wei used village wisdom to urge Americans to take a tougher stand on Beijing If you look aside when gangsters abuse your neighbors, then you will never be safe," he opines. "Only when all people band together against such gangsters will all be safe. But he was quickly eclipsed by those Iowa infants who, in the battle for ratings, command many more divisions than Wei.