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A Beijing court has upheld eight- and 10-year sentences for four Chinese dissidents who posted their opinions online, RFA's Mandarin and Cantonese services report.

The Beijing First Intermediate Court on Monday rejected appeals by Xu Wei, Yang Zili, Zhang Honghai, and Jin Haike, Yang's wife told RFA's Cantonese service.

Lu Kun said she attended the court session along with four other relatives of the defendants. "After their appeal was rejected, the four shouted �We protest! This is persecution!'" she said.

In May, Xu Wei and Jin Haike were sentenced to 10 years and Yang Zili and Zhang Honghai to eight years for subversion after posting to the Internet opinions about social issues in China.

Their convictions followed testimony by three witnesses who have since recanted. They based their appeals on grounds that this key testimony had been retracted.

�During the first trial, the court did not permit key witness Huang Haixia�s retracted testimony, which was not right; it was unlawful," Mo Shaoping, Xu Wei's lawyer, told RFA's Mandarin service. "Then we raised the issue in the appeal trial, arguing that in accordance with the litigation law, the court should gather all evidence for and against the defendant. We asked to allow the three key witnesses to testify, but the request was turned down.�

Lu added: "Even though the witnesses told the court their original statements were false, that they were made under pressure and threats, the court would not allow them to testify."

�The court unthinkably ignored the key witnesses� reversed statements and upheld the original sentences," prominent Beijing dissident Liu Xiaobo told RFA's Mandarin service. "This is wrong no matter what angle you look at it. In other countries, if key witnesses reverse their testimony, the courts do not readily ignore it by upholding the original sentence."

All four were arrested in early 2001 after setting up what they called the New Youth Association, which they hoped would discuss social problems in China.

Lu told reporters the group split within months of its formation, and the four were arrested shortly thereafter.

When asked how she felt about the defendents' appeal being turned down, Lu said it was "very painful, very painful," adding that they would appeal again.

No comment was available from Chinese government officials.#####


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