One of China's most prominent dissidents has identified a British journalist as the foreigner to whom he passed military intelligence, in part resulting in his controversial 15-year prison sentence, according to what Chinese sources say is an unofficial trial transcript.
In a story from London, however, the Reuter news agency said its Peking bureau chief Ian MacKenzie denied the alleged testimony for former underground magazine editor Wei Jingsheng that MacKenzie had received detailed information on the Sino-Vietnamese war and offered to pay Wei 300 pounds sterling (about $630).
Since Wei's Oct. 16 trial, the first of its kind in China, the official Chinese press has printed detailed stories on the case but refrained from naming the foreigner allegedly involved. The trial was closed to foreigners and Chinese questioned about it up to now had not provided a name. Several wallposters here have demanded that the foreigner be identified and expelled from the country, an action the government seemed to be forestalling by keeping the name secret.
The purported transcript of Wei's testimony, part of a series of excerpts from the trial released by sources in Peking's democracy movement, was made available to foreign journalits by some supporters of Wei. An independent second source, Xu Wenli, whose unofficial magazine April 5 Forum last week released other apparently authentic transcripts from the trial, said today the new transcript was authentic, but said he was surprised it had been given to foreign journalists.
"It concerns a diplomatic matter, so we better leave it to the government to handle it," he said. MacKenzie, who has a visa to reenter China, is vacationing in Britain and is not expected back until late November. Reuter correspondents here said no Chinese official had contacted them about the matter.
Shortly after Wei, whose father is a high government official, allegedly gave military information to a foreigner of Feb. 20 at the beginning of the Sino-Vietnamese war, the London Daily Telegraph, Agence France-Presse and the Toronto Globe and Mail each published stories using the same information cited by the government at Wei's trial. MacKenzie never wrote a story containing the information Wei said he supplied, but according to the alleged transcript Wei leaves no doubt that it was MacKenzie to whom he gave the information.
Interpreting their conversation, according to Wei, was a man named Guo Li. Other correspondents here identify the man as Bill Guo, a reporter for the British news film service Vis-news, who has since left Peking.
According to the alleged transcript, when asked about the information he passed on about the war, Wei said; "During my conversations with the English reporter MacKenzie I mentioned this question. The content concerned the front line commanders' names." He said he also talked about the number of casualties during the first few days of the war, information he said he had heard from "many people."
"When was it that MacKenzie promised to give you 300 pounds?" the court asked, according to the purported transcript. Wei answered "Also at the end of February. It was the second time we met. We met twice."
According to the Reuter story from London, which contains no direct quotes from MacKenzie, "MacKenzie said that so far as he could recall, he had met Wei twice at the request of the dissident.On the first occasion, MacKenzie said, he had given Wei 10 yuan (about $6) as a subscription to his magazine, which at the time in January had not been proscribed by the authorities.
"The second meeting took place outside the Minzu Hotel about a week after the start of the border war between China and Vietnam in February. MacKenzie said Wei had offered to supply military information with the implication that he expected to be paid for it.
"The Reuter correspondent said Wei had told him Chinese troops in Vietnam were experiencing communication difficulties, a fact that appeared to be fairly widely known already in Peking. MacKenzie said that the implications of dealing with a dissident offering military intelligence were such that he rejected dealings with Wei.
Wei was convicted both for relaying the military information and writing what the court said were counter revolutionry articles that attacked the government in his magazine Explorations.