China Sentences U.S.-Based Dissident
Feb. 10, 2003
BEIJING (AP) _ A U.S.-based Chinese dissident was convicted Monday and sentenced to life in prison on charges of spying and terrorism, ending a bizarre saga that involved allegations of cross-border kidnapping and hostages found tied up in a temple.
Outraged activists rejected the charges against Wang Bingzhang as false and politically motivated.
Wang, 55, was arrested after police said they found him July 3 bound in a temple in a southern province while investigating a kidnapping case. Pro-democracy activists suggest he was abducted in Vietnam by Chinese agents after meeting with Chinese labor activists in the Vietnamese capital of Hanoi.
Wang was convicted of spying for Taiwan between 1982 and 1990 and of setting up a terrorist group, the official Xinhua News Agency reported. It said he ordered an unspecified assassination in 1999 and plotted to blow up China's embassy in Thailand.
The report was the first time the communist government publicly accused Wang of links to specific terrorist acts, but gave no evidence to support the charges and didn't indicate whether any attacks were carried out.
Wang's parents faxed a statement to The Associated Press in Beijing accusing Chinese authorities of ``illegal abduction and illegal interrogation.''
``All people of conscience will feel furious,'' said the statement, signed by his father and mother, Wang Junzhen and Wang Guifang. ``The world is fighting terrorism, but the Chinese government is making terrorism.''
Wang, a Chinese citizen, has lived abroad since 1979, first in Canada and then the United States, where he has permanent resident status. In the 1980s, he lived in New York, where he published a pro-democracy journal, China Spring. He slipped back into China without permission in 1998 in hopes of organizing an opposition party. He was caught and deported.
Xinhua said Wang was accused of using his 1998 visit to set up a terrorist group. It said he told one man to carry out explosions and an assassination in 1999 on China's National Day holiday, which is Oct. 1. The report said he told Taiwanese authorities that he had stockpiled explosives on the mainland to blow up roads and bridges.
``The charges that have been leveled against him ... are trumped up and have no relation to reality,'' said Timothy Cooper, international director for the Free China Movement, an activist group in Washington. The group appealed to the U.S. government to ``exert all its influence'' to win Wang's release.
The U.S. Embassy in Beijing and the Chinese Foreign Ministry said they had no immediate comment.
Taiwan and China have been ruled separately since separating amid civil war in 1949, though the Beijing government claims the island as its territory.
Both sides are believed to spy actively on each other. Several Chinese-born academics with ties to the United States were arrested in 2001-02 on charges of spying for Taiwan. They were convicted and expelled from China.
In Hong Kong, activists tried to leave a letter protesting Wang's conviction at the central Chinese government's liaison office but were blocked by about 50 police who surrounded the building, according to a member of the group. Hong Kong returned to Chinese rule in 1997 but is still governed separately.
The group of about 10 activists scuffled briefly with police, said activist Lau San-ching. He said they burned the protest letter after being blocked from delivering it.
Wang was visiting Hanoi with two other dissidents when they were reported missing in June.
Chinese authorities said they found all three in southern China's Guangxi region, which borders Vietnam, while they were investigating a kidnapping case. Wang was apparently taken to Shenzhen, near Hong Kong, where he was formally charged on Dec. 5.
The Chinese government has said the other two dissidents _ Yue Wu and Zhang Qi _ were cleared of involvement in Wang's activities. Xinhua had earlier said that Wang's trial was closed because it involved state secrets.
Wang was a medical student in China when he started speaking out against the communist government and was jailed twice.