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Monday, February 9, 1998 Published at 16:10 GMT

World: Asia-Pacific

China arrests more dissidents
image: [ The latest arrests were reported to have taken place in Shanghai ]
The latest arrests were reported to have taken place in Shanghai

Reports from China say two more dissidents, Yang Qinheng and Zhang Rujun, have been detained by police.

The BBC's Carrie Gracie in Beijing with the latest details (1'34")
Their arrest in the city of Shanghai follows the detention last week of a pro-democracy activist, Wang Bingzhang, who was arrested after returning from exile under a false identity.

The US embassy in Beijing has taken up the case of Mr Wang.

A spokesman said the embassy was actively pursuing the issue with the Chinese authorities in order to establish his status and health.

Mr Wang, who holds a Chinese passport, left China 20 years ago and defected to the United States.

Wang Bingzhang has been a staunch overseas critic of Beijing's Communist regime for the past 15 years.

The BBC's Carrie Gracie in Beijing with the latest details (1'34")
He was sent by the Chinese government to study medicine in Canada in 1978, but later defected to the United States.

There he founded the magazine "China Spring" and the Alliance for Democracy, an organisation of dissidents in exile.

His detention mirrors the case of prominent Chinese human rights activist Harry Wu, also a US citizen, who was arrested trying to sneak in to China in 1995 to collect information on the country's penal colonies.

[ image: Harry Wu: arrested in 1995]
Harry Wu: arrested in 1995
Wu was expelled that same year, hours after being sentenced to 15 years in jail on spying charges.

No word from authorities

The purpose of Wang Bingzhang's visit to China was not immediately clear.

The head of the Hong Kong-based Information Centre of Human Rights and Democratic Movement in China, Frank Lu Siqing, said Wang Bingzhang had entered China from Portuguese-run Macau last month under an alias.

Lu said that since entering China, he had met democracy activists in Shanghai and in two other provinces.

He said Wang Bingzhang was the first Chinese postgraduate to be sent overseas by the government under the reforms of the late paramount leader Deng Xiaoping, obtaining a doctoral degree in medicine.

There was no official word on the detentions by Chinese authorities, who appear to be increasingly prepared to open the country up to scrutiny over human rights.

On Monday three US clerics appointed by American President Bill Clinton are set to arrive in Beijing on an unprecedented mission to look into religious freedom.

China has for years angrily attacked foreign criticism of its human rights record as interference.

Last week Beijing dismissed as "irresponsible" a US State Department assessment that China still widely employed heavy-handed tactics of intimidation and imprisonment to silence its critics.

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