Chinese dissident to stand trial

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The Independent Online
The outspoken Chinese dissident, Wang Dan, will go on trial next Wednesday in Peking, charged with plotting to overthrow the government and conspiring with enemy forces overseas. His mother will act as one of two defence counsel, but a lengthy jail sentence of as much as 10 years looks inevitable.

Mr Wang, 26, was this week described by a Foreign Ministry spokesman as a "criminal", even though he had yet to appear in court. These days an increasingly assertive China has the confidence to dispose of its dissidents without regard for Western sensibilities about human rights. No well-known dissident remains at large in China.

Yesterday, Peking slammed a European Parliament human rights award to China's most famous dissident, Wei Jingsheng, as "a rude interference in China's internal affairs and judicial jurisdiction". It will probably be some weeks before Mr Wei hears he has won the 1996 Sakharov prize for "freedom of thought" as he is serving a 14-year jail sentence at the Nanpu saltworks in Hebei province for conspiring to overthrow the government.

The stiff sentence received by Mr Wei in December last year bodes ill for Mr Wang, who was mentioned at that trial as a co-conspirator. Mr Wang was one of the student leaders during the June 1989 Tiananmen Square pro- democracy demonstrations, and spent three-and-a-half years in jail after the bloody crackdown by the army. After he was released in February 1993, he continued to call for political reform and published his views in the foreign media. He has been held without trial since May last year.

Mr Wang's mother, Wang Lingyun, has been unusually vocal in keeping the world informed about the impending trial. "I hope that the court can judge his case according to the facts, the law and justice," she told foreign journalists yesterday.