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Copyright 1999 Agence France Presse  
Agence France Presse

February 28, 1999 11:18 GMT

SECTION: International news

LENGTH: 541 words

HEADLINE: Chinese opposition party cancels national meeting in face of crackdown

    By Luisetta Mudie

BEIJING, Feb 28 (AFP) - Chinese opposition party activists on Sunday cancelled a planned nationwide meeting because of a renewed crackdown before a visit by US Secretary of State Madeleine Albright.

"The China Democracy Party (CDP) ... announces the cancellation of the International Covenants Discussion Forum scheduled from March 1 to March 3 due to the harsh crackdown by the Communist government," the CDP said in a faxed statement issued through the US-based Free China Movement.

The move came just hours before Albright was expected in Beijing for a visit aimed at improving rocky relations and preparing for Premier Zhu Rongji's trip to the US in April.

The CDP had planned the meetings to discuss China's obligations under the two United Nations covenants on human rights, both of which it has signed but not yet ratified.

The meeting, which could have gathered together hundreds of CDP supporters from around the country, was to have been the first major move by the outlawed party since three prominent members were given stiff jail sentences in December.

Instead, around 30 activists held a similar discussion Sunday in a teahouse in the eastern city of Hangzhou, the Information Centre of Human Rights and Democratic Movement in China said in a statement.

Meanwhile police in the central city of Wuhan detained CDP activist Lu Xinhua, the Information Centre said. "Three police officers took Lu Xinhua away from his home at around 2.00 p.m. and there has been no word of him since," it said.

Lu's detention was the latest in a series in Wuhan, the planned venue for the CDP's national forum.

In a renewed crackdown on dissent the authorities detained CDP activist Wu Yilong at his home in Hangzhou Friday but gave no reason for his detention, his wife Shan Chenfeng told AFP.

Wu is believed to be closely allied with CDP founder Wang Youcai, who was jailed for 11 years last December after he applied to register China's first opposition party under communist rule.

Two activists in Wuhan were still behind bars Sunday, dissident sources said. Chen Zhonghe and Xiao Shichang both remained in detention after being taken away from their homes on Tuesday.

The Free China Movement slammed US President Bill Clinton's policy of engagement rather than confrontation with China and called for greater international pressure over Beijing's human rights record.

"The policy has been a total failure and must be re-evaluated," spokesman Lian Shengde said in a statement.

Hong Kong-based China Development Union activist Yi Gai also hit out at the sentencing on Saturday of environmental activist Peng Ming to 18 months in a labour camp without trial.

"The CDU strongly condemns Peng Ming's sentencing without trial to 18 months in labour camp," Yi said in a statement issued through the Information Centre of Human Rights and Democratic Movement in China.

China Democracy Party members had planned to hold their conference just before the opening on March 5 of the annual full session of the National People's Congress or parliament.

Beijing has ordered local authorities to be on the lookout for protests during the two-week session, the Hong Kong Information Centre said.



LOAD-DATE: February 28, 1999

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