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Copyright 1998 Agence France Presse  
Agence France Presse

September 11, 1998 08:37 GMT

SECTION: International news

LENGTH: 571 words

HEADLINE: China dissidents hold out hope of establishing opposition party

DATELINE: (ADDS official comment from Hubei)

    By Lorien Holland

BEIJING, Sept 11 (AFP) - China's communist government appears to be softening its hardline on dissent by preparing to permit the first opposition political party here since 1949, dissidents groups said Friday.

Activists from eastern Shandong and central Hubei provinces told AFP officials in both provinces had accepted opposition party applications for consideration and had asked for four simple conditions to be fulfilled.

"Three activists went to Hubei Province Civil Affairs bureau this morning and officials told them that they had to fulfill four conditions to register a provincial branch of the China Democracy Party (CDP)," veteran dissident Qin Yongmin said by telephone from Wuhan.

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

"We have thought about the possibilty that the government is luring us into a trap but we are not afraid. We will fulfill the four conditions and see what happens," Qin said.

"We don't want to move too fast and put too much pressure on the government," he added.

Officials in Shandong province gave the same four conditions to dissidents Xie Wanjun and Liu Lianjun on Thursday when they tried to register the Shandong branch of the CDP.

"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 a telephone interview.

"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 said.

An official from the mass organisations section of the Hubei Civil Affairs Bureau indicated such moves might be afoot by saying the government was "revising" regulations on mass organisations in order to make the process more simple.

"We have received their application. All that I can say is that if someone wants to register a civil organisation, we will deal with it and approve it according to the relevant regulations of China," 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 initial attempt to register the CDP -- the first attempt to register a party 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.

He was later released and told to report daily to the police.

"The formal arrest has been changed to a kind of house arrest where the police come to my house everyday and I have to tell them what I am doing," Wang said.

"I don't think the police will press the formal charges," he added.



LOAD-DATE: September 11, 1998

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