CBSN

China Frees Four Dissidents

Chinese authorities have released four democracy activists rounded up in a crackdown on an opposition political party and are keeping five others in custody, a human rights group said Sunday.

Police formally arrested three of those detained in Friday's crackdown in Zhejiang province, eastern China, and told their families to prepare clothes for them, possibly a sign they would be tried or sentenced to a labor camp, the Information Center of Human Rights and Democratic Movement in China said. Chinese police can send people to labor camps without trial.

The three Wang Youcai, Wang Donghai, and Zhu Yufu were leading members of the China Democracy Party, a political group attempting to challenge the ruling Communist Party.

Organizers announced the formation of the China Democracy Party on June 25, the start of President Clinton's nine-day China tour. But authorities have refused to allow the group to register, as required by law, and some dissidents had been warned to stop campaigning for the party.

Two other party members, Zhu Zhengming and Cheng Fan, also remained in detention, the Hong Kong-based Information Center said.

Police were searching for Lin Hui, a founding member of the party, according to a party statement faxed to Beijing by Chinese dissidents in exile. It said police arrested the party's leaders on the charge of plotting to subvert the government.

It said that 18 dissidents nationwide appealed Sunday for the release of those still detained, maintaining in a letter to President Jiang Zemin and Premier Zhu Rongji that the detentions run counter to government pledges to improve human rights.

Four other campaigners detained in Friday's crackdown—Fang Xiaohuang, Wang Peijian, Wang Qiang, and Wu Gaoxing—were released Saturday, according to the Information Center.

In a statement condemning Friday's crackdown, dissidents in exile in the United States urged Congress to evaluate "the serious consequences and harm" done to the struggling Chinese democracy movement by Clinton's trip and his China policies.

Clinton used his trip to showcase a modern, tolerant China and to publicly cajole Chinese leaders to allow more dissent. Clinton was aiming to defend his policy of "constructive engagement" with Chinese leaders from critics who want to see him take stronger action against human rights abuses and other problems in China.