- The Washington Times - Tuesday, February 11, 2003

BEIJING, Feb. 11 (UPI) — The life sentence handed down on pro-democracy activist Wang Bingzhang is raising concern that the Chinese government is using the global war on terrorism as a pretext for violations of human rights at home.

On Monday China's state-run media announced that the Intermediate People's Court of Shenzhen sentenced Wang, 55, to life imprisonment and deprival of political rights for life on charges of espionage and organizing and leading a terrorist group. Deprivation of political rights is normally imposed on citizens of the People's Republic of China, however Wang has renounced his citizenship, and currently has the status of a permanent resident in the United States.

At a news briefing Tuesday, Zhang Qiyue, spokeswoman from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs said, "China followed the rule of law and violators of the law will be punished in strict accordance with it."

Zhang referred to an item carried on Feb. 10 by the official Xinhua News Agency reporting the sentence on Wang as the government's definitive statement on the issue thus far. According to the Xinhua, Wang allegedly was contacted by Taiwanese intelligence agents starting in late 1982, and provided intelligence on the mainland from that time until 1990.

Beginning in 1996, Wang allegedly started writing, publishing books, and listing articles on websites that agitated for terrorist activities, including assassination, kidnapping and bombing. Wang was also accused of encouraging terrorists abroad and made two visits to Thailand between February and July 2001 in a plot to bomb the Chinese embassy there.

The foreign ministry spokeswoman had no specific details to offer when asked by United Press International to elaborate on the nature of Wang's connection with international terrorism, either groups or individuals.

Several analysts monitoring both terrorism and human rights issues from Western embassies in Beijing told UPI the failure of the state to present concrete evidence suggested the charges against Wang were a cover for repression. One foreign representative, speaking on condition of anonymity, said there were glaring contradictions in the Xinhua statement.

Referring to the mainland's oft stated position that Taiwan is an integral part of China, the diplomat asked "if Wang was in the pay of the Taiwanese, which remains inconclusive based on what we've seen, wouldn't it be a case of internal rather than international terrorism?"

U.S. State Department spokesman Richard Boucher noted deep concerns over the lack of due process and China's refusal to admit observers to the court proceedings.

The city of Shenzhen, where the verdict was handed down, was a sleepy village abutting Hong Kong until it was transformed into a major economic hub during the reign of Chinese leader Deng Xiaoping in the 1980s and 1990s.

Recent reports speculate that Shenzhen is to become a laboratory for political change during the upcoming National People's Congress scheduled to start in March.

The authorities' stance on Wang speaks volumes about the real nature of political reform in China, said one embassy official.

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