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Document 5 of 12.

Copyright 1999 Agence France Presse  
Agence France Presse

February 28, 1999 08:04 GMT

SECTION: International news

LENGTH: 583 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 by the authorities ahead of 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 United States 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.

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.

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 Beijing's human rights record.

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 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.

In Beijing, environmental activist Peng Ming was sentenced on Saturday to 18 months in a labour camp without trial on charges of whoring.

US-based dissidents condemned Peng's sentence, saying the charges against him were trumped up.

"The prostitution charges against Peng Ming were fabricated by the authorities," a Hong Kong-based rights group quoted China Development Union (CDU) activist Yi Gai as saying.

"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.

It said Beijing police had detained him in a karaoke parlour on January 25 as a hostess was clearing away plates and glasses from his table and accused him of using prostitutes.

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, the Hong Kong Information Centre said.



LOAD-DATE: February 28, 1999

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