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Copyright 1999 Agence France Presse  
Agence France Presse

February 28, 1999 05:03 GMT

SECTION: International news

LENGTH: 452 words

HEADLINE: China dissidents cancel conference in face of crackdown


   Chinese opposition party activists have cancelled plans for a nationwide meeting Monday in the face of a crackdown by authorities on the organisers, an overseas dissident group said Sunday.

"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 US Secretary of State Madeleine 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 conventions 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.

Activists in the eastern city of Hangzhou said a similar discussion would now be held in a teahouse in the city Sunday, and comprise just 20-30 people from the area.

In a new round of detentions, Wu Yilong was arrested at his home in Hangzhou late Friday by two police officers who gave no reason, 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 the central city of Wuhan, where the meeting was to have been held, 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.

CDP 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, according to the Hong Kong-based Information Centre of Human Rights and Democratic Movement in China.

Overseas dissidents reacted angrily to the move to cancel the forum.

"We feel very sorry ... that the forum in Wuhan has to be cancelled due to the arrest of the two organizers," Free China Movement activist Wang Xizhe said in a statement.

The group slammed US President Bill Clinton's policy of engagement rather than confrontation with China, calling for greater pressure from the international community over its human rights record.



LOAD-DATE: February 28, 1999

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