CHINA JAILS DISSIDENT AT START OF PREMIERS U.S. VISIT


2003-12-08
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The authorities in the northern Chinese city of Xi'an have handed down a two-year jail term to a former schoolteacher on subversion charges ahead of a meeting between the country's Premier Wen Jiabao and U.S. President George W. Bush in Washington, RFA�s Mandarin service reports.

The Intermediate People's Court sentenced Yan Jun Monday, following his detention in April for posting comments on the Internet appealing for a reassessment of the official verdict on the June 1989 pro-democracy demonstrations, which culminated in a massacre of unarmed protesters by People's Liberation Army (PLA) troops.

�After the sentencing, he felt he was wronged,� Yan�s mother, Dai Yuzhen, told RFA. �I was despondent, too, so much so that I fell into a state of confusion. I stayed with friends, and they tried to comfort me, but to no avail. I just couldn't help myself.�

�I asked Yan Jun whether he was going to appeal, and he said he would. And then sorrow took control of me and I cried. Seeing me cry, he kneeled down in front of me and said: 'Mom, don't cry. Devotion (to one's cause) and filial duty do not go hand-in-hand.' What could I say? I was indignant (about the sentencing) and yet felt helpless," she said.

Yan's sentencing was reported in a statement by the Hong Kong-based Information Center for Human Rights and Democracy, which also urged the U.S, including President Bush, to use the visit to put pressure on China to improve its rights record.

"We call on Bush to pressure Wen Jiabao to open up the Internet, allow religious freedom, and allow workers to set up independent unions," the Center's director Frank Lu said in a statement.

Human rights issues are likely to be high on the agenda at talks between Wen and Bush, and other top administration officials.

During his four-day official visit, which began Sunday, Wen is likely to hear demands for the release of another dissident, U.S. resident Yang Jianli. Yang, who is still awaiting a verdict following his trial for espionage in August. U.S. senators and representatives have already written to Bush and Wen expressing concern about Yang's imprisonment, which came after he returned to China using a friend's passport to observe labor unrest.

Yan Jun's is the latest in a string of prison sentences handed down to cyber-dissidents since Wen and a new generation of Chinese leaders took over almost a year ago. The middle school teacher was arrested in April after posting five essays online.

Apart from the call to reassess the Tiananmen verdict, Yan had also called on the government to allow independent labor unions, freedom of the press and expression, and to ratify U.N. human rights covenants to which Beijing is signatory.

This is Wen's first visit to the United States as Chinese premier. He will visit New York, Washington, and Boston.

In a written statement at the airport on arriving in the U.S., Wen said the China-U.S. relationship was at a "pivotal moment of continued advance" and was "faced with both opportunities and challenges."

"I look forward to an open and in-depth exchange of views with President Bush and other American leaders on bilateral relations and the current international situation," he said. "I also hope to help the American people better understand China."#####

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