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Chinese court sentences dissident to three years

By John Leicester, Associated Press, 07/21/98 08:28

BEIJING (AP) - A Chinese court sentenced a dissident today to three years imprisonment for helping a fellow activist escape China.

The sentencing of Fan Yiping continued a pattern of tightening repression since President Clinton ended a visit to China two weeks ago with calls for greater freedoms.

Aside from sentencing Fan, Chinese authorities have clamped down on an illegal opposition party, detaining 11 dissidents, and charged a veteran human rights activist with fraud.

``Things have taken a turn for the worse since President Clinton left,'' said Lu Siqing, a human rights campaigner in Hong Kong.

Eight of those detained in the crackdown on the China Democracy Party have since reportedly been released. Three party founders - Wang Donghai, Wang Youcai and Lin Hui - remain in detention, facing what observers fear may be possible charges of subversion.

Fan, the dissident sentenced today in the southern city of Guangzhou, was convicted of ``organizing others to cross a border illegally,'' said a spokesman for the Guangzhou Intermediate People's Court.

Aside from sentencing Fan to three years imprisonment, the court also ordered him to pay a $1,207 fine, said the spokesman surnamed Su, who refused to provide his full name.

Fan said he would appeal, Su said.

A Hong Kong-based group criticized Fan's trial as politically motivated. The Information Center of Human Rights and Democratic Movement in China claimed Fan was put on trial because he supported forming free trade unions - which are banned in China - and met in February with an exiled dissident who slipped back into the country to set up an underground opposition party.

Wang Xizhe, the dissident Fan was convicted of helping leave China in 1996, said Fan only told him how to contact gangs that smuggle people out of China, the Information Center said.

Thousands of people in Guangdong, the southern province where Fan lived, have sought to slip into neighboring Hong Kong. When caught, they often escape with a fine.

A food company manager before his arrest in March, Fan, 43, has a history of activism dating to the Democracy Wall movement of the late 1970s, when he edited a journal, ``Voice of the People,'' the Information Center said.

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