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World - Asia/Pacific

Faster access in Asia

Rights groups call for release of China activist

10 August 1998
Web posted at: 23:12 JST, Tokyo time (14:12 GMT)

BEIJING, Aug 10 (Reuters) - Chinese and Western human rights activists on Monday called for the release of a student leader in 1989 pro-democracy demonstrations arrested for trying to register an opposition party.

A group of 90 Chinese dissidents signed an open letter demanding that authorities release Wang Youcai and allow him access to a lawyer while in detention, the U.S.-based group Human Rights in China said in a statment.

Wang, 32, detained since July 10, was one of 13 dissidents rounded up in the eastern city of Hangzhou for trying to register the Chinese Democratic Party on June 25, the first day of U.S. President Bill Clinton's nine-day state visit to China.

All except Wang have been released. The letter stressed that the registration of a political party was "peaceful, non-violent, in compliance with China's constitution and a basic human right stipulated by the United Nations Charter on Human Rights."

Police have refused to shed light on Wang's case. The Washington-based Free China Movement said in a statement it was "greatly offended by the Chinese Communist Party's recent decision to indict Mr Wang Youcai."

Hangzhou police informed Wang's wife, Hu Jiangxia, by telephone on Saturday that the pro-democracy campaigner was formally arrested the previous day on charges of incitement to overthrow the government, the wife has said.

If charged and convicted, Wang could be sentenced to life in prison, according to Chinese laws.

The Free China Movement said Wang's treatment amounted to political persecution and proved Beijing's promise to Clinton to improve human rights and deepen reforms were "a complete lie."

During his visit, Clinton argued for human rights and greater freedom in China, raising hopes that the world's most populous nation could become more open.

After trying and failing to register the party, the Hangzhou dissidents had dropped their plan before Clinton left China, saying the challenge to Communist Party supremacy was too risky.

Washington has urged Beijing to release the Hangzhou dissidents, but China has objected to U.S. concerns as interference in its internal affairs, saying most of the dissidents were criminals.

Wang was paroled in 1991 after serving two years in prison for his role in student-led pro-democracy demonstrations around Beijing's Tiananmen Square which were brutally crushed by the army on June 4, 1989 with severe loss of life.

Wang, a physics graduate student at prestigious Peking University in 1989, had been sentenced to three years in prison. He was on the government's list of 21 most wanted student leaders.

Fellow dissidents had applied to police to march through Hangzhou's streets on August 12 to call for Wang's immediate release. Police were expected to reject their application.

A group of 23 dissidents have written an open letter to President Jiang saying they were willing to accompany Wang and go to jail if he were convicted.

Copyright 1998 Reuters Limited. All rights reserved.

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