Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Chinese Dissident Gets 14-Year Term after Quick Trial Harsh Sentence Draws Immediate Protests from West

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Chinese Dissident Gets 14-Year Term after Quick Trial Harsh Sentence Draws Immediate Protests from West

Article excerpt

China's most influential democracy activist was sentenced Wednesday to 14 years in prison - the most severe punishment imposed on a critic of China's Communist rulers since 1989.

After a trial that lasted less than five hours, Wei Jingsheng, 45, was convicted of sedition for organizing unauthorized art exhibitions and for writing articles that criticized the government. Wei already has spent 16 years in prison.

Within hours of Wei's sentencing, the United States, Britain, France and Germany condemned his conviction and urged his release.

Foreign reporters and diplomats were barred from the court building by scores of police who patrolled in heavy fog and snow. The human rights group Amnesty International called the trial "a mockery of justice" and said it "sets the clock back to where China was" when Wei was sentenced to his first prison term in 1979.

Wei's most recent arrest occurred in April 1994, at the start of a crackdown by the Communist Party after President Bill Clinton announced that China's access to U.S. markets would no longer depend on its human rights record.

In Washington, Mike McCurry, the White House spokesman, criticized Wei's sentence and called for his release. McCurry said the United States would raise the case with Chinese officials and join other nations in bringing unspecified global pressure on China.

Wei's sister, Wei Shanshan, called the trial "an outrage."

"There is no factual basis for such a verdict," she said by telephone from Washington, where she is lobbying Clinton's administration to pressure China on human rights. "The Chinese government is shameless. They operate like an organized crime group that pays no attention to the law."

At a news conference with several members of Congress, she asked, "What will the United States do now for my brother?"

"It is not only a question of saving Wei Jingsheng," she said. …

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