Chinese dissident jailed for 11 years

Peking on trial: Authorities shows disregard for world opinion on human rights with sentencing of Tiananmen Square leader

Not one witness was called in person, and the trial took just three hours. But Judge Cai Yue yesterday declared China's judicial process as "open, fair and legitimate" as she pronounced the 27-year-old pro-democracy activist, Wang Dan, guilty of "conspiring to subvert China's government" and sent him to jail for 11 years.

Mr Wang's father, Wang Xianzeng, speaking last night, criticised the proceedings as "very unreasonable ... it is too hasty". He said his son had been "very rational and calm" in court and would appeal against the verdict, although this is bound to fail.

The parents were allowed to meet their son for 30 minutes after the trial. "Wang Dan thought that all he had done was above board ... for China's democracy. His conscience is clear," said his father.

Mr Wang's "crimes" amounted to writing articles critical of the Chinese government for the foreign press, receiving funds from "overseas hostile forces" and exiled dissident organisations, giving financial aid to families of jailed dissidents, and trying to set up an "opposition force" by contacting other dissidents inside China.

"By thus inciting turmoil he sought to create public opinion in support of the overthrow of the state power and the socialist system," said the prosecution, which demanded a sentence of "extra severity".

There was never a chance Wang Dan would not be found guilty. He had already served three and a half years in prison for being one of the student leaders in the spring 1989 Tiananmen Square pro-democracy movement. After his release in February 1993, Mr Wang continued to campaign for political reform and human rights, remaining a persistent thorn in China's very sensitive political side, until he was permanently detained in May 1995.

But the harshness of the sentence and the summary nature of yesterday's justice has jolted Western governments' hopes that quiet diplomacy might have any impact on China's regard for human rights. By holding the trial only three weeks before the scheduled visit of the US Secretary of State, Warren Christopher, Peking has demonstrated its confidence, even when snubbing Western political sensitivities over human rights.

One of the key subjects for discussion during Mr Christopher's visit will be a possible state visit to China next year by President Bill Clinton, a diplomatic prize much hankered after by President Jiang Zemin.

China's leaders are bolstered by the knowledge that their country is an emerging superpower, courted by the world's businessmen. But they are also worried about social stability, with uneven economic development exacerbated by unemployment and corruption. As a result, the Communist party is determined to maintain a tight grip while the country negotiates the next stages of economic reform.

Mr Wang's trial will be a reminder for China, and Hong Kong, that Peking's tolerance of criticism is at a low level.

The authorities yesterday did not even try to pretend Wang Dan was receiving a proper trial. Police ringed the Peking Number One Intermediate People's Court, keeping foreign journalists and Chinese several hundred yards away. Inside fewer than 20 Chinese witnessed proceedings. All requests for international observers to attend were ignored.

The trial lasted from 9am to noon. Mr Wang spoke for 20 minutes. According to his father, he admitted writing some articles, "but that this was not tantamount to a crime". Mr Wang was defended by a lawyer and by his mother. No witness was summoned by the prosecution. After a break of 30 minutes, the three judges announced the verdict and sentence at 12.30pm.

"Wang candidly confessed his activities," the official Xinhua news agency said. "His criminal fact is clear, and the evidence is conclusive." Judge Cai added: "Sufficient evidence, which includes written materials, witness accounts, recorded tape and criminal technical appraisal, were shown at court."

A study this week of Mr Wang's indictment, by Human Rights Watch Asia, presented a very different picture. Quotes from Mr Wang were taken out of context, and in one case a composite quote was stitched together from essays written more than a year apart.

What China's British trading partners had to say

Around 280 businessmen from top British companies accompanied Deputy Prime Minister Michael Heseltine on his May trade mission to China. In the light of Chinese human rights activist Wang Dan's 11-year imprisonment, these are the reactions of some of those firms with dealings in China.

Rolls-Royce: No comment

Rover: No comment

ICI: "ICI and its predecessor companies have been involved with China for hundreds of years." The spokesman offered the view that if one conducts oneself in an ethical way in business dealings it will affect the country one is dealing with. "That is all that one can do," he concluded.

Amec: No comment

Cable & Wireless: No comment

GEC: No comment

Lucas: No comment

British Aerospace: "BA would not become involved in internal politics in an overseas country." BA did not want to discuss a specific country, saying it was "not right for individual commercial companies to take their own judgements outside the UK government advice or regulation."

Allied Domecq: No comment

BZW: No comment

Lloyd's of London: No comment

The Foreign Office yesterday proclaimed itself to be "dismayed" at the news of the 11-year sentence for the former student leader. "We urge the Chinese to show clemency and allow Wang's early release. We are considering with EU partners what further action to take."

A spokesman said "We regularly raise human rights with them."

Michael Heseltine's office did not return calls.

Compiled by Elizabeth Wine

Suggested Topics
News
peopleHowards' Way actress, and former mistress of Jeffrey Archer, was 60
Sport
Romelu Lukaku puts pen to paper
sport
News
Robyn Lawley
people
Arts and Entertainment
Unhappy days: Resistance spy turned Nobel prize winner Samuel Beckett
books
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
News
people
Life and Style
Troy Baker and Ashley Johnson voice the show’s heroes
gamingOnce stilted and melodramatic, Hollywood is giving acting in video games a makeover
News
i100
Life and Style
Phones will be able to monitor your health, from blood pressure to heart rate, and even book a doctor’s appointment for you
techCould our smartphones soon be diagnosing diseases via Health Kit and Google Fit?
News
people
Extras
indybest
Travel
Ryan taming: the Celtic Tiger carrier has been trying to improve its image
travelRyanair has turned on the 'charm offensive' but can we learn to love the cut-price carrier again?
Sport
Usain Bolt confirms he will run in both the heats and the finals of the men's relay at the Commonwealth Games
commonwealth games
Life and Style
Slim pickings: Spanx premium denim collection
fashionBillionaire founder of Spanx launches range of jeans that offers 'thigh-trimming construction'
News
Sabina Altynbekova has said she wants to be famous for playing volleyball, not her looks
people
News
i100
Life and Style
tech'World's first man-made leaves' could use photosynthesis to help astronauts breathe
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

SAP Project Manager

competitive: Progressive Recruitment: SAP PROJECT MANAGER - 3 MONTHS - BERKSHI...

SAP Project Manager

competitive: Progressive Recruitment: SAP PROJECT MANAGER - 3 MONTHS - BERKSHI...

Senior Investment Accounting Change Manager

£600 - £700 per day + competitive: Orgtel: Senior Investment Accounting Change...

Microsoft Dynamics AX Functional Consultant

£65000 - £75000 per annum + benefits: Progressive Recruitment: A rare opportun...

Day In a Page

Save the tiger: The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

With only six per cent of the US population of these amazing big cats held in zoos, the Zanesville incident in 2011 was inevitable
Samuel Beckett's biographer reveals secrets of the writer's time as a French Resistance spy

How Samuel Beckett became a French Resistance spy

As this year's Samuel Beckett festival opens in Enniskillen, James Knowlson, recalls how the Irish writer risked his life for liberty and narrowly escaped capture by the Gestapo
We will remember them: relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War

We will remember them

Relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War
Star Wars Episode VII is being shot on film - and now Kodak is launching a last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

Kodak's last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

Director J J Abrams and a few digital refuseniks shoot movies on film. Simon Usborne wonders what the fuss is about
Once stilted and melodramatic, Hollywood is giving acting in video games a makeover

Acting in video games gets a makeover

David Crookes meets two of the genre's most popular voices
Could our smartphones soon be diagnosing diseases via Health Kit and Google Fit?

Could smartphones soon be diagnosing diseases?

Health Kit and Google Fit have been described as "the beginning of a health revolution"
Ryanair has turned on the 'charm offensive' but can we learn to love the cut-price carrier again?

Can we learn to love Ryanair again?

Four recent travellers give their verdicts on the carrier's improved customer service
Billionaire founder of Spanx launches range of jeans that offers

Spanx launches range of jeans

The jeans come in two styles, multiple cuts and three washes and will go on sale in the UK in October
10 best over-ear headphones

Aural pleasure: 10 best over-ear headphones

Listen to your favourite tracks with this selection, offering everything from lambskin earmuffs to stainless steel
Commonwealth Games 2014: David Millar ready to serve up gold for his beloved Scotland in the end

Commonwealth Games

David Millar ready to serve up gold for his beloved Scotland in the end
UCI Mountain Bike World Cup 2014: Downhill all the way to the top for the Atherton siblings

UCI Mountain Bike World Cup

Downhill all the way to the top for the Atherton siblings
Save the tiger: The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

The big cats kept in captivity to perform for paying audiences and then, when dead, their bodies used to fortify wine
A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery all included in top 50 hidden spots in the UK

A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery

Introducing the top 50 hidden spots in Britain
Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

How a disease that has claimed fewer than 2,000 victims in its history has earned a place in the darkest corner of the public's imagination
Chris Pratt: From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

He was homeless in Hawaii when he got his big break. Now the comic actor Chris Pratt is Hollywood's new favourite action star