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Chinese court sentences activist to 12-year term Democracy advocate Qin becomes latest victim of government crackdown


BEIJING -- A Chinese court sentenced a third democracy activist, Qin Yongmin, to prison yesterday as part of a major crackdown on the nation's first open, opposition party.

Qin, 45, of the central Chinese city of Wuhan, received 12 years. He joins fellow party organizers Xu Wenli, who was sentenced to 13 years Monday, and Wang Youcai, who was given 11 years the same day.

The three worked recently to establish the China Democracy Party, the first to challenge the communist regime since it came to power nearly 50 years ago.

Their prosecutions are the most publicized in China since former NTC Tiananmen Square student leader Wang Dan was imprisoned in 1996. Wang, who was sentenced to 11 years, was released this year on medical parole and sent into exile in the United States.

Qin, who also ran a human rights newsletter, was found guilty yesterday of "subverting state power." The Wuhan court also found that he had "sought and accepted funds from some hostile overseas organizations to organize, plan and conduct subversive activities," China's official Xinhua news agency said.

The scenes in China during the past week have seemed from another, darker age. Police detained dissidents to prevent them from demonstrating outside courthouses. Authorities had a democracy discussion group evicted from its offices in Beijing.

Chinese leaders boast of developing a rule of law in this one-party state, but the prosecutions suggested otherwise. Neither Qin nor Wang, 32, had attorneys during their trials as police either detained or frightened them away. All three men were given little time to prepare their cases.

The long sentences were a stark reminder that behind China's increasingly sophisticated veneer stands an uncompromising, authoritarian leadership.

"One of the most poisonous legacies of Mao's revolution is its political intolerance for diversity and pluralism," said Orville Schell, dean of the Graduate School of Journalism at the University of California at Berkeley and a longtime China watcher.

"This will endure long after the surface of cities like Beijing and Shanghai have the superficial trappings of westernized modernity. One must never be in too big a hurry to proclaim [Mao's] revolution over," Schell added.

The future of the China Democracy Party, which had tried to establish branches in 14 provinces, appears bleak. During the past several weeks, police have either arrested or detained more than 30 members.

Pub Date: 12/23/98

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