November 1996                                                                                                                                Vol. 8, No. 10 (C)
Wang Dan's Trial and the New "State Security" Era

With its decision to bring Chinese dissident Wang Dan to trial on October 30 on the charge of "conspiracy to subvert the government," the most serious charge in the Chinese criminal code, the Chinese government has signaled its determination to deny freedom of speech and association to any citizen daring publicly to raise fundamental criticisms of government policy. The charge sends a message to China's dissidents that the courts will no longer draw a distinction between political speech or writing on the one hand and concrete action on the other: both levels of dissent are henceforth to be indiscriminately treated as "endangering state security." It casts serious doubt on the commitment of top Chinese officials to the vaunted reform of the country's legal system. And it shows conclusively that Western mantras about economic growth producing political liberalization notwithstanding, Chinese leaders are growing increasingly intolerant of dissent. In addition, by holding Wang Dan's trial just weeks before the visit to Beijing of U.S. Secretary of State Warren Christopher and just weeks after visits of German Foreign Minister Klaus Kinkel and Italian Foreign Minister Lamberto Dini, Beijing has chosen to disregard international expressions of concern over its human rights record.

Human Rights Watch/Asia calls on the Chinese government to release Wang Dan and drop all charges against him. The government should also permit international observers, from the diplomatic community, the press corps and international legal and human rights organizations, to attend the trial in Beijing Intermediate Court No.1.

If Wang Dan is found guilty as charged, the international community must not stay silent:

1. Also in September 1996, Wang Hui, the wife of imprisoned labor-rights activist Zhou Guoqiang, who is currently serving a four-year term of "reeducation through labor" in a prison camp in Heilongjiang Province, was secretly detained by Beijing police on account of her persistent attempts to appeal against her husband's incarceration, and has not been heard of since. During a previous detention this summer, Wang Hui reportedly attempted to hang herself in her cell but was cut down by prison guards and then given a severe beating as punishment.

2. "Bu shi tamen zhikong wo gan shenmo, shi tamen mei zhikong wo zuo shenmo." Bao was sentenced to seven years' imprisonment on the charge of "leaking state secrets" for his alleged role in the 1989 pro-democracy movement, released from jail in May 1996 and then immediately transferred to the alternative custody of a high-security government facility in western Beijing.

3. The "Four Basic Principles" refer to Deng Xiaoping's March 1979 injunction that China will forever adhere to "the leadership of the Communist Party," "the dictatorship of the proletariat," "the socialist path" and "the Four Modernizations." In 1982, the Chinese government wrote these principles into the preamble of the State Constitution.

4. "Lun Minzhu Gaige Zai Zhongguo de Poqiexing," Ming Bao, September 5, 1994.

5. Text of indictment as issued in Chinese by Human Rights In China, October 16, 1996; present translation by Human Rights Watch/Asia.

6. A labor rights activist from Guangxi province who was also cited in the government's prosecution indictment against Wei Jingsheng

7. Article 103 of the Criminal Law further stipulates: "Whoever commits any of the crimes of counterrevolution mentioned above in this Chapter, except those in Articles 98, 99 and 102, may be sentenced to death when the harm to the state and the people is especially serious and the circumstances especially odious." (A subsequent government decree extended the death penalty to crimes committed under Article 99, which refers to "the use of feudal superstition or superstitious sects and secret societies to carry on counterrevolutionary activities.")

8. According to the transcript of the prosecution indictment on which the translation given in Appendix I(a), above, is based, the procuracy cited Articles 90, 92 and 63 of the Criminal Law against Wang Dan. However, since Article 63 calls for lenience and mitigated punishment to be extended to those who "voluntarily surrender," "whose crimes are relatively minor" and who (even if their crimes are serious) "demonstrate meritorious service," citation of this article appears to flatly contradict the procuracy's insistence elsewhere in the indictment that Wang is "a repeat offender and thus should be sentenced with extra severity." It may well be possible that the original indictment in fact calls for application of Article 62, and that a transcription error occurred in the version of the indictment published overseas.

Article 100 of the Criminal Procedure Law, also cited in the indictment, simply calls for the procuracy to initiate public prosecutions in cases where the facts of the alleged crime have been adequately established.

9. "State Security Law of the People's Republic of China," adopted by the National People's Congress Standing Committee on February 22, 1993; translation from the British Broadcasting Corporation's Summary of World Broadcasts, March 3, 1993.

10. "Detailed Rules for Implementing the State Security Law of the People's Republic of China," promulgated by the State Council on July 12, 1994; translated in Foreign Broadcast Information Service (FBIS-CHI-94-135), July 12, 1994.