Chinese court upholds life sentence for U.S.-based Chinese pro-democracy activist

A court on Friday upheld the conviction and life sentence of a U.S.-based court on Friday upheld the conviction and life sentence of a Chinese pro-democracy activist on charges of leading a terrorist group and kidnapping. Peng Ming leads a California-based group that is unusual among Chinese activists in its refusal to disavow possible violence in pursuing the replacement of China's communist government with a democracy.

Peng was convicted in October by a court in central China of setting up a terrorist training base in Myanmar, on China's southwestern border, and directing others to murder and kidnap people. He also was fined 35,000 yuan (US$4,000; Ђ3,500). His conviction and sentence were upheld Friday by the Higher People's Court of Hubei province, the official Xinhua News Agency reported.

The government hasn't released any of its evidence against Peng. Peng, who lives in San Francisco, was arrested in Myanmar in May 2004 on charges of possessing fake Chinese money and turned over to China. Peng's supporters in the United States say he went to Myanmar to set up a haven for fleeing Chinese dissidents.

"The court found that Peng plotted and established a terrorist training base in Myanmar from June of 2003 to early 2004, and demanded all trainees of the base enroll new members and carry out terrorist activities after returning to China," Xinhua said.

Peng leads the China Federation Foundation, founded in San Francisco in 2003. He told The Associated Press at that time that its goal was to replace communist rule with democracy, by violence if necessary. "We would rather avoid force if we can," he said.

Peng spent 18 months in a Chinese labor camp after being arrested in 1999 in a crackdown on dissent. Released in August 2000, he moved to the United States as a political refugee in 2001. Xinhua said Peng was accused of organizing six kidnappings in Beijing and two other Chinese cities in 2002-04.

The court concluded that Peng "recruited terrorists and incited kidnapping, murder and other terrorist activities through publishing books and Internet articles and had formulated teaching schemes on terrorism," Xinhua said.

Two members of Peng's group were sentenced to prison in 2003 by a Chinese court on subversion and kidnapping charges.

Benjamin Lan, a Taiwanese-born American, and Sun Gang, a Chinese-born New Zealander, were accused of preparing to "carry out propaganda in Beijing," the government said at the time, reports the AP. I.L.

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