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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Verdict Shows A Tightening Grip by Beijing

BEIJING -- If foreign governments thought Beijing listened to pleas on human rights, they may have to think of new means of persuasion after a Beijing court jailed one of China's few dissidents still at liberty for 11 years on Wednesday.


The conviction of the 27-year-old democracy activist Wang Dan on the capital charge of plotting to overthrow the government marked the disappearance of one China's few remaining dissidents into the Chinese gulag.


"It's really a slap in the face to those Western governments that have repeatedly asked China to improve its human rights record," said one Western diplomat.


He noted that the sentencing came just a week after a visit by German Foreign Minister Klaus Kinkel and amid preparations for a trip by U.S. Secretary of State Warren Christopher in late November.


Another Western diplomat said China was not impervious to concerns about its human rights record raised by foreign governments, adding that it was possible that without foreign pressure such jail terms could be even longer.


Western diplomats said the swiftness of the trial and the severity of the sentence were part of a nationwide tightening of controls by the Communist Party.


"They may see deterrent value in a stiff sentence," said one Asian diplomat. "It dissuades other would-be Wang Dans from taking a similar course of action."


The verdict against the dissident charged he received funds from overseas hostile forces, gave financial aid to families of jailed dissidents and tried to set up an "opposition force" by uniting illegal organizations.


"It's sort of difficult to see why they should be so frightened of this," the second Western diplomat said in a reference to China's communist rulers.


However, he said that in recent months Beijing had moved to virtually eradicate any remnants of China's struggling democracy movement.


"In the last few weeks the few remaining [dissidents] have either run away or been dealt with," he said referring to the sentencing of dissident Liu Xiaobo to three years in a labor camp and the escape to the United States of Wang Xizhe, his co-author of a call to impeach President Jiang Zemin.