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Copyright 1998 Agence France Presse  
Agence France Presse

September 11, 1998 03:44 GMT

SECTION: International news

LENGTH: 347 words

HEADLINE: China dissidents hold out hope of establishing opposition party

DATELINE: BEIJING, Sept 11

BODY:
   China's communist government may permit the establishment of the first opposition political party here since 1949, outspoken dissidents in eastern Shandong province said Friday.

"We went to the Shandong Civil Affairs Bureau yesterday and officials said they were considering an application to register the Shandong preparatory committee of the China Democracy Party (CDP)," activist Xie Wanjun told AFP.

"They said they had four conditions and we had 20 days to fulfill them," he added.

The four conditions were that the party had a capitalisation of 50,000 yuan (6,000 dollars), that details of its headquarters and main organisers were provided, and that there were at least 50 named members.

"The officials looked at all our existing documentation very carefully and I think that it is possible that the application will be approved," Xie said.

"In my judgement, such decisions are not made by local officials and it is quite possible that they received directives from the top leadership of the Communist party," he added.

Exiled dissidents in the United States said they were cautiously optimistic over the development.

"We cautiously appreciate this positive gesture as any bit of progress made by the Communist Party towards relaxation and reform is welcome," said Wang Lian, spokesman for the Free China Movement.

"But the registration for the opposition party is still pending and we wish to see it approved and it is obviously too premature to celebrate developments in freedom of association in China," he added.

Over the summer, dissidents in neighbouring Zhejiang province made the first attempt to register the party -- the first such attempt since the start of Communist rule in 1949.

But that application led to several detentions.

Police held about 20 activists associated with the party and activist Wang Youcai was arrested for "incitement to overthrow state power," a reference to his attempt to legally register the CDP.

However, he was later released and says he is unclear if the charges against him are still valid.

blh/jkb

LANGUAGE: ENGLISH

LOAD-DATE: September 10, 1998



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