1999.02.08 2:55am Taiwan time updated

China Detains Activist as Opposition Party Prepares to Hold Forum

BEIJING, Feb 7 (AFP) - China on Sunday detained a Sichuan-based opposition party activist as the outlawed China Democracy Party stepped up preparations to hold a nationwide discussion forum, dissident sources said.

Beijing police detained Liu Xianbin on his way back from visiting a friend, the Hong Kong-based Information Centre of Human Rights and Democratic Movement in China said in a statement faxed to AFP.

"His whereabouts are not known," the statement said.

Liu, a close associate of veteran dissident Xu Wenli who was jailed for 13 years for subversion in December, was arrested by police near the State Meteorological Bureau, the Information Centre said.

Both Liu and Xu had close links to the outlawed party, which announced defiant plans Saturday to set up a national committee, less than two months after the sentencing of Xu and three other activists to lengthy jail terms.

China Democracy Party (CDP) activists Chen Zhonghe and Xiao Shichang called in an open letter for UN Secretary General Kofi Annan and UN Human Rights commissioner Mary Robinson to attend the party forum in the central city of Wuhan from March 1 to 3.

"The major goals and topics of this forum will be to exercise the rights of free association ... and to kindly propose to the National People's Congress to ratify the two (human rights) covenants the Chinese government has signed," said the letter, which was released via the US-based Free China Movement.

Beijing activisit Gao Hongming said Saturday that CDP members from Beijing, Hubei, Liaoning, Tianjin, Shaanxi, Hebei Hunan and North America had agreed to form a national committee.

Police in northeastern China responded by detaining CDP member Wang Zechen in Liaoning province, who was initially identified by AFP as Wang Zejuin.

Wang was released by police Sunday and immediately released a faxed statement saying that no branch of the party had been set up in Liaoning.

In a separate development, authorities in the northern province of Shandong released veteran dissident Sun Weibang after 10 years imprisonment for his part in the 1989 Tiananmen pro-democracy movement.

"According to our information, Sun Weibang was released from Weifang Prison in Shandong province on February 4, two years early," the Information Centre of Human Rights and Democratic Movement in China said in a statement faxed to AFP.

It said Sun had returned home after being released under a parole scheme linked to productivity in the labour camp, and his release was not a result of a political decision made by the authorities.

Sun, 47, spent one year in jail for sticking up big character posters during the 1979 Democracy Wall movement in Beijing.

He was jailed again after the 1989 Tiananmen protests for 12 years for counter-revolutionary crimes, a charge the authorities have replaced with subversion when applied to political prisoners.

China has signed the two UN covenants governing civil and political rights, and economic, social and cultural rights, but has yet to ratify either treaty.

The government launched a crackdown on dissent last December, jailing Xu, together with Wuhan activist Qin Yongmin and CDP founder Wang Youcai, for 13, 12 and 11 years respectively on charges of subversion.

Their long prison terms came after Li Peng, number two in the Communist Party and the head of the parliament warned of zero tolerance.

"If an organisation is designed to go for the multi-party system and attempts to negate the leadership of the Communist Party then it will not be allowed to exist," Li said.

"Under our constitution, the Communist Party is the leader of China's revolution and nation-building," he added.

China Times Inter@ctive Main Page (in Big-5 Chinese)

Contact us:service@it.chinatimes.com.tw