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 Wednesday, 22 January, 2003, 08:35 GMT
Chinese dissident tried for spying
File photo of Wang Bingzhang
Wang Bingzhang has lived in North America since 1979
A US-based Chinese democracy activist went on trial in China on Wednesday, charged with espionage and terrorism.

Wang Bingzhang
Jailed twice during the Cultural Revolution
Permanent US resident
Founded two political groups
Wang Bingzhang, 56, was arrested in southern China in December, having disappeared in Vietnam for the previous six months.

The US human rights group, Free China Movement (FCM), has accused Chinese agents of kidnapping Mr Wang and bringing him to China to lay "false charges".

The trial ended after half a day without a verdict, his lawyer said. The veteran dissident, who is a permanent resident of the United States, had been expected to plead not guilty.

The international director of FCM, Timothy Cooper, said Mr Wang was likely to be convicted, and to face a sentence of up to 20 years.

"We are quite confident that he will be convicted of his crime and we believe that he will receive unfortunately the highest of sentences

Timothy Cooper, Free China Movement

According to the official Chinese news agency, Xinhua, Mr Wang has engaged in "violent terrorist activities" and has been paid by Taiwan's espionage organisations to collect "state secrets".

Xinhua said the Shenzhen Intermediate People's Court in Guangdong province, where the trial was held, would give its verdict at a later date.

The hearing was closed to the public because Mr Wang's trial related to state secrets, the agency said.

Mysterious disappearance

Mr Wang went missing, along with two other democracy activists, last summer. The three entered Vietnam with valid visas, and were planning to hold meetings with fellow activists there.

Chinese dissidents in the United States said in July that they had received information that Mr Wang and his fellow activists were abducted by Chinese security forces along the border of China and Vietnam and were being held at a secret location in China.

But China's official news agency Xinhua said in December that police had found the trio bound and gagged in a temple in Fanchenggang city, southern Guangxi province, on 3 July.

It said they had been kidnapped on 27 July in Tinh Quang Ninh in Vietnam, and were being blackmailed.

After they were found, Mr Wang was transferred to neighbouring Guangdong province, where he was put under house surveillance before being formally arrested on 5 December, the agency said.

The two other activists - Yue Wu and Zhang Qi - who were arrested with Mr Wang, are said to have been cleared of all charges and freed.

Exiled

Fang Yuan, a member of the China Democracy Party, which is outlawed inside China, has said the disappearance of the dissidents was "testament to the desperate lengths the government will go to stop the evolution of democracy in China".

The three all have connections with exiled Chinese opposition groups.

Wang Bingzhang was jailed twice in China during the Cultural Revolution.

He moved to North America in 1979, founded the magazine China Spring, and organised the Chinese Alliance for Democracy in New York. He made headlines in 1998 for sneaking into China and getting expelled

See also:

20 Dec 02 | Asia-Pacific
20 Dec 02 | Asia-Pacific
26 Jul 02 | Asia-Pacific
16 Mar 02 | From Our Own Correspondent
18 Oct 02 | Asia-Pacific
16 Jan 03 | Asia-Pacific
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