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Prominent China Dissidents on Trial

November 30, 1999

BEIJING (AP) _ Two prominent members of an outlawed Chinese opposition party were tried for subversion today in the city of Anshan as part of a sweeping government campaign to quash dissent.

In other cases reported by rights groups today, a Chinese construction worker who took part in a strike while working in Kuwait was sentenced to two years in prison. And in Beijing, a veteran activist was returned to a psychiatric hospital where he has already spent more than seven years.

In Anshan in northeastern Liaoning province, the cases of would-be opposition party members Wang Zechen and Wang Wenjiang were heard in a 2 1/2-hour session today, said a court spokeswoman whose surname was Meng. The verdict was not announced, in keeping with usual practice in dissident cases, but conviction was virtually assured under China’s compliant court system.

At least 18 leading organizers of the short-lived China Democracy Party have been put on trial for subversion over the past year, the Hong Kong-based Information Center of Human Rights and Democratic Movement in China reported. Sentences have ranged from five to 13 years in prison.

Both Wangs, who are not related, are influential figures in China’s small dissident community. Wang Zechen campaigned against radical communism more than 20 years ago and served time in jail. Wang Wenjiang, a lawyer, has represented dissidents in court. Police detained him last year to prevent him from defending China Democracy Party founder Wang Youcai.

In the Kuwait case, construction worker Chen Xianggui recently was convicted of ``gathering people to disturb the social order,″ a charge based on his union activism while working in the Middle East, the Information Center reported.

Chen went to Kuwait in 1996 as one of thousands of Chinese overseas laborers and joined a union of foreign workers. He helped organize a one-week strike in Kuwait in 1997 over unpaid overtime, the Information Center said. The strike was legal under Kuwaiti law.

But Chinese authorities revoked Chen’s passport in early 1998, forcing him to return to China. He was arrested and held until a court in his native Sichuan province convicted him Oct. 28.

A court official who gave only her surname, Zhou, confirmed the conviction. Chen has appealed.

In the third case, veteran Beijing rights activist Wang Wanxing has been forcibly committed again to a police-run psychiatric hospital, the New York-based group Human Rights in China reported. Wang’s wife said he is mentally stable.

Wang was initially sent to the hospital in 1992 after he tried to unfurl a banner in Beijing’s Tiananmen Square commemorating victims of the 1989 military assault on pro-democracy demonstrators.

He was released for a three-month trial period this August but was warned not to talk to foreigners or dissidents or listen to foreign news broadcasts, Human Rights in China reported. Police seized Wang after he said he would hold a news conference about his treatment in the hospital, the rights group said.

Update hourly