U.S. Concerned Over China's Terrorism Trial for Dissident

The United States said yesterday it had "deep concerns" about the trial of a U.S.-based Chinese dissident sentenced to life in prison on terrorism charges, and it urged China not to use the war on terrorism to crack down on political dissent.

A Chinese court ordered Wang Bingzhang, 55, a U.S. green-card holder and New York resident, jailed for life for "organizing and leading a terrorist group," the first time a Chinese terrorism charge had been used to convict a democracy activist.

China's official Xinhua news agency said he had plotted to bomb the Chinese Embassy in Bangkok during visits in 2001 and had made preparations to build a terrorist training base in northern Thailand. It also accused him of spying for Taiwan.

"We have made it clear to China on numerous occasions and at very senior levels that the war on terrorism must not be misused to repress legitimate political grievances or dissent," State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said.

Boucher said Wang appeared to have been detained by China for six months during which Chinese authorities denied knowing his whereabouts.

Rights activists say Wang was kidnapped in 2002 from Vietnam by Chinese security agents.

Democrats Question Alleged Expansion of Anti-Terror Laws

Democrats asked the Justice Department to explain reports that it plans to ask Congress to expand an anti-terrorism law to increase surveillance while restricting access to information and limiting judicial review.

House Judiciary Democrats called on Attorney General John D. Ashcroft to explain the existence of a copy of draft legislation called the Domestic Security Enhancement Act of 2003. The Center for Public Integrity, which posted the document online Friday, said the copy was from a government source.

Ashcroft said the Justice Department is working to figure out "what we can do to be more successful" in the war on terrorism. "We're going to do that on a daily basis," Ashcroft said.

The new legislation, according to the alleged draft, would prohibit disclosure of information regarding people detained as terrorist suspects and prevent the Environmental Protection Agency from distributing "worst-case scenario" information to the public about a nearby private company's use of chemicals.

The measure would create a DNA database of "suspected terrorists"; force suspects to prove why they should be released on bail; and allow the deportation of U.S. citizens who join or aid terrorist groups.

Ashcroft said there is no final proposal to expand the USA Patriot Act.

3 Federal Judges Approved

By Senate Without Dissent

The Senate approved its first federal judges of the Congress without dissent: John Adams of Ohio, by a 91-0 vote; Robert Junell of Texas, 91-0; and S. James Otero of California, 94-0. Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tenn.) said he hoped to get a final vote this week on the nomination of Miguel Estrada to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia. Democrats have threatened to filibuster to block the vote.

Compiled from reports

by the Associated Press and Reuters