Chinese dissident hopes to appeal 11-year sentence
Wang Dan convicted after short trial
October 30, 1996
Web posted at: 10:45 a.m. EST (1545 GMT)
In this story:
From Beijing Bureau Chief Andrea Koppel
BEIJING (CNN) -- Prominent dissident and former student leader Wang Dan was convicted Wednesday of plotting to
overthrow the Chinese government and sentenced to 11 years in
prison. The verdict and sentence were denounced by human
rights activists, and the 27-year-old pro-democracy activist
told family members he wanted to appeal.
"Everything he's done has been within the bounds of Chinese
law," his father, Wang Xianzeng, whispered to CNN on
Wednesday, accompanied by his wife and daughter as they
walked to court to plead Wang Dan's innocence. His mother, a
61-year-old museum researcher who has no background in law,
participated in the trial as one of two defense lawyers.
Because the Beijing government says their son is a criminal,
the Wangs are routinely harassed by police and take a huge
risk each time they talk to journalists. They took the risk
on Wednesday because "we hope that Wang Dan will be found not
guilty," his father explained.
In a trial and sentencing that took just four hours, they got
their answer, but not the one they wanted. In addition to
the 11-year prison term, the Beijing Number One Intermediate
People's Court also sentenced Wang to an additional two years
without political rights. He had faced a maximum penalty of
death and a minimum 10-year sentence.
"It is very unreasonable... it is too hasty," Wang Xianzeng
said afterward. "Wang Dan said he wants to appeal... we will
definitely appeal," he said after a 30-minute meeting with
his son following the conviction.
Most journalists kept out
From beginning to end, human rights groups charged that the
guilty verdict in Wang Dan's trial, like those in almost all
Chinese criminal trials, was predetermined.
Although the government claims the trial was a public one, no
impartial observers were allowed to attend and police kept
international journalists far away from the courthouse.
Wang, a leader of the 1989 pro-democracy demonstrations in
Beijing's Tiananmen Square, had been one of the few members
of China's dwindling band of dissidents not in exile or
serving a long term in detention or prison.
He has already served three and a half years in prison for
counter-revolutionary crimes, or subversion, for his role in
the Tiananmen Square demonstrations that were crushed by the
army in June 1989 with heavy loss of life.(19 sec./1MB QuickTime movie)
He was politically active again after his parole in 1993,
defying police surveillance to join a daring appeal to
Communist leaders for the release of those still jailed for
their part in the 1989 protests.
Human rights groups said the verdict was the result of a show
trial that blatantly violated Chinese law and international
standards. There are virtually no dissidents left in China
today, says Robin Munro of Human Rights Watch/Asia. (15 sec./342K AIFF or WAV sound)
Munro's claim of government intimidation appears to be borne
out by a random survey of Chinese residents. When a CNN
reporter stopped people on a Beijing street Wednesday and
asked what they thought about Wang's trial, most walked away,
saying they were too busy to comment.
Human rights groups are calling on governments around the
world to postpone all trade missions and high-level visits to
China until all political prisoners are released. But that's
not expected to happen.
In the months to come, China's diplomatic calendar is already
booked with high-level visits from major Western countries,
including one next month by U.S. Secretary of State Warren
Reuters contributed to this report.
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