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Chinese Dissident Sentenced to Life in Prison - 2003-02-10

A Chinese court has sentenced an American-based Chinese dissident to life in prison on spying and terrorism charges. China's official Xinhua News Agency reported Monday that Wang Bingzhang, an advocate of democracy for China and a permanent U.S. resident, was sentenced to life in prison.

According to the news agency, Mr. Wang was found guilty of providing secret information to Taiwanese intelligence agents in the 1980s. In 2001, he was allegedly planning to bomb the Chinese embassy in Thailand. He was also found guilty of planning terrorist actions inside China.

Tim Cooper is an official of the U.S. based China Democracy Party, which Mr. Wang helped found. He maintains that Mr. Wang is innocent of the charges, and was never involved in spying or planning attacks. "This is a fresh, I would say novel approach to silencing dissent in China," he says. "We believe that we'll see more of this, since terrorism seems to be the cause-celebre. It's reasonable to expect them to use these charges in the future as they have done in Xinjiang province."

Mr. Wang disappeared in Vietnam late last June with two other Chinese activists. His family and colleagues say the three were planning to meet Chinese labor leaders near the Vietnam-China border when they went missing.

Mr. Cooper and other democracy activists allege that the three were abducted by the Chinese authorities and taken into China. "We understood that they were about to go to the border between Vietnam and China to meet labor leaders. That is where we believe they were kidnapped by Chinese agents, taken across the border [and] held captive for six months."

Chinese media reported that Mr. Wang was arrested after police found him tied up in a temple in China's Guangxi Province, which borders Vietnam.

The American embassy in Beijing asked permission to send an observer to Wang's one-day trial in Shenzhen, across the border from Hong Kong, but the request was denied by the Chinese government.

After the sentence was announced, a group of pro-democracy activists tried to present a letter to Chinese representatives in Hong Kong, calling for Mr. Wang's release. The activists scuffled briefly with police before being turned away.

Mr. Wang began speaking out against the Chinese Communist Party as a student. He left China in 1979, first for Canada, and then for the United States, where he settled in New York. He snuck into China in 1998 on a mission to found a pro-democracy party there, but was captured and quickly deported.