Activist jailed for leaks to radio station

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The Independent Online
CHINA CONVICTED its fourth dissident in a week yesterday, jailing a veteran labour activist for 10 years for passing information on rural unrest to US-backed Radio Free Asia.

The court in central Hunan province also stripped Zhang Shanguang of his political rights for five years for telling a Radio Free Asia interviewer about farmers' protests, according to Human Rights in China, which is based in New York.

The Huaihua Intermediate Court took 30 minutes after a trial lasting two hours and 20 minutes to sentence Zhang, who was escorted to the court building by a convoy of 20 police vehicles.

The sentencing of Zhang follows the jailings of three founders of a banned opposition party and the issue of an anti-subversion decree in line with an order by President Jiang Zemin that all threats to stability be "resolutely nipped in the bud".

Zhang's case "clearly shows that the second wave of repression of democracy activists will soon get under way", the Information Centre of Human Rights and Democratic Movement in China, which is based in Hong Kong, said in a statement. On Friday, court officials confirmed that Zhang would be the subject of a closed-door trial yesterday. According to Human Rights in China, Zhang was accused of "illegally providing intelligence to overseas enemy organisations and people".

In an interview with Radio Free Asia in March, Zhang spoke of a demonstration in Hunan's Xupu county by about 80 farmers against excessive taxes and another protest that resulted in fatal violence.

China views Radio Free Asia, which is funded by the US government, as hostile to communist rule and blocks its broadcasts. In June, Peking refused to grant visas to Radio Free Asia reporters to cover President Bill Clinton's visit. Peking has also lobbied other countries not to let the network set up transmission stations on their territory.

Zhang, who served seven years in prison for a previous conviction based on his role in pro-democracy demonstrations in 1989, is the fourth opposition figure to receive a lengthy sentence in the year-end crackdown on dissent. (Reuters)