Qin was arrested for plotting to overthrow the government, a crime that could keep him in jail for life. Xu was taken away on warrants that identified him as a criminal suspect, while Wang, detained a month ago, was also formally arrested Monday although his family has not been told the charge.
Their campaign came following Chinas signing of key U.N. human rights treaties, partly done to improve relations with the United States and other Western countries.
By these acts, Chinas government and relevant authorities have brazenly violated international treaties and universal human rights principles, said an open letter signed by 190 dissidents in 22 provinces and cities and faxed to foreign news agencies.
On the one hand, they are deceiving and cheating international public opinion while on the other hand they are suppressing and persecuting domestic political dissidents, said the letter.
The letter demanded the release of Xu, Qin, Wang and any others taken into custody.
NBCs Eric Baculinao on Chinas plans to prosecute cyber-dissident
In Washington, State Department spokesman James P. Rubin called Xus detention a serious step in the wrong direction and called for his release. He said Monday that Xu had been for peacefully exercising fundamental freedoms guaranteed by international human rights instruments.
POLICE ASKING ABOUT NASCENT PARTY
Two other democracy party supporters taken into custody in central Wuhan city along with Qin Chen Zhonghe and Xiao Shichang were released early Wednesday, said He Xintong, Xu Wenlis wife. She added that police questioned the pair about the party as well as Qins human rights monitoring organizations.
Qin and Xu are towering figures in Chinas persecuted dissident community. Their activism dates to the seminal Democracy Wall movement of the 1970s. Wang heralds from 1989s influential Tiananmen Square democracy movement, in which he was a student leader. All have spent time in prison, Xu for 12 years, much of it in solitary confinement.
Xus wife said she does not know where he is being held and, in her 20-year experience with the authorities, believes they are unlikely to tell her.
Released in 1993, Xu picked up his campaigning for political change soon after his parole ended last year. He has tried to use Chinas nascent legal system and the international treaties it signed to push for reform.
My husband is innocent and theres nothing he can be criticized for, said his wife, He Xintong. Theyre going to have to expend a lot of effort to make him a criminal.
Qins family was told Wednesday to send clean clothes and quilts to him, a sign authorities were preparing for a long detention, the Hong Kong-based Information Center of Human Rights and Democratic Movement in China reported.
© 1998 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
Human rights in China: Rhetoric and reality
Human Rights Watch China Report
Embassy of China, Washington, D.C.
China: State Department 1997 human rights report
Lawyers Committee for Human Rights: New approach to China
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