BEIJING -- While President Bush was hosting Chinese Foreign Minister Qian Qichen in Washington yesterday, authorities here were moving toward putting on trial at least a dozen jailed dissidents alleged to have led last year's pro-democracy protests.
In the last week, Western diplomats have confirmed reports that China has charged or is about to charge the political prisoners with the capital crime of sedition or lesser charges involving counterrevolutionary activities.
Other Western reports indicated that dozens of Beijing-area students still attending classes recently have been issued warnings and soon are likely to be punished for their roles in the protests that ended in June 1989, with a brutal military crackdown near the capital's Tiananmen Square.
Among those jailed for more than a year and now reportedly facing charges are: Wang Dan, a student protest leader who was first on the authorities' most-wanted list until his arrest; Liu Xiaobo, a prominent intellectual associated with deposed Communist Party chief Zhao Ziyang; and Wang Juntao and Chen Ziming, who published a weekly economic journal.
There has been no indication that Mr. Zhao -- the most important official implicated in the protests -- has been charged with any crime, suggesting that party divisions still prevent resolution of his case.
Nevertheless, diplomats say China's move to try some of the leading dissidents reflects its leadership's increased confidence that internal dissent now is under firm control and that the West now is less apt to take further action on its concerns about Chinese human rights issues.