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US Concerned about Imprisonment of Chinese Dissident - 2003-02-10

The United States is expressing deep concern over the case of a U.S.-based Chinese dissident, Wang Bingzhang, given a life prison term Monday by a Chinese court on charges of terrorism and spying for Taiwan.

Officials here said they are concerned about the handling of the case and nature of the charges against Mr. Wang, who was given the life prison term after a brief closed-door trial in the southern city of Shenzhen.

The 55-year-old Mr. Wang, who has lived most of the last two decades in Canada and the United States, is a long-time democracy advocate with ties to several Chinese opposition groups.

He was visiting Vietnam when he was reported missing last June.

Chinese authorities said he was arrested in southern China in December, while pro-democracy groups allege he was abducted from Vietnam by Chinese agents after he secretly met with Chinese labor activists in Hanoi.

Briefing reporters in Washingtond, State Department Spokesman Richard Boucher said U.S. diplomats in China have registered concerns with Chinese authorities over, among other things, a lack of due process in the case, and China's refusal to admit observers to the trial.

"We also note with deep concern that Mr. Wang's trial was conducted in secret, raising questions about the nature of the evidence against him and the lack of due process. And we are particularly concerned by the charge of terrorism in this case, given the apparent lack of evidence and of due process," Mr. Boucher said.

Mr. Boucher said many questions about the case remain unanswered, including Mr. Wang's status between the time he went missing in Vietnam and turned up in Chinese custody.

He said China's denials of knowledge of his whereabouts during the six-month span are unconvincing to observers of the case, and have raised questions about his treatment during that period.

China's official news agency said in a brief statement on the case that Mr. Wang was convicted of espionage and of organizing and leading a terrorist group.

Mr. Boucher said U.S. officials have made it clear to China on numerous occasions and at very senior levels that the war on terrorism "must not be misused to repress legitimate political grievances or dissent."