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China Arrests US-Based Dissident - 2002-12-20

China has arrested a U.S.-based dissident and charged him with spying and terrorist activities, six months after he and two other Chinese democracy activists disappeared in Vietnam.

China's official Xinhua News Agency says that police found Wang Bingzhang, Yue Wu, and Zhang Qi tied up in a temple in the southern province of Guangxi on July 3. In a report released Friday, Xinhua says the three Chinese, who all live abroad, had been kidnapped in Vietnam in late June, and a $10 million ransom was demanded for their release.

The report gives no other details about the purported kidnapping. Human rights campaigners say the three had been meeting secretly with Chinese democracy activists in Vietnam before their disappearance.

Xinhua quotes a spokesman for China's Ministry of Public Security as saying that police took Mr. Wang to neighboring Guangdong Province and placed him under house arrest. Mr. Yue and Ms. Zhang were reportedly cleared of all charges, but Xinhua does not say where they are now.

The news agency says Mr. Wang, a U.S. resident, was formally arrested on December 5, and is accused of selling Chinese state secrets to a Taiwanese spy group since the early 1980s. The authorities have also accused Mr. Wang of publishing articles on the Internet advocating violence and terrorism.

Lu Siqing, a Hong Kong researcher with the Information Center for Human Rights and Democracy, says he is skeptical of the official Chinese report.

Mr. Lu believes the three exiled dissidents were kidnapped in June by Chinese security forces along the Vietnam-China border and taken into China. He also disputes charges that Mr. Wang was involved in spying or terrorism.

Mr. Wang is a long-time dissident who went into exile in 1979. He published a pro-democracy magazine in the United States and has been involved with several groups opposing the Chinese government, including the banned China Democracy Party.

In 1998, he entered China without permission, and was deported within weeks. Ms. Zhang, who also lives in America, is a leader of a meditation group banned in China. Mr. Yue, a French resident, was a labor leader during the 1989 pro-democracy protests in Beijing's Tiananmen Square.