3 Sentenced to Death in China : Protesters Accused of Setting Train on Fire in Shanghai

From Times Wire Services

A court accused three men today of starting a riot in Shanghai and sentenced them to death, the first execution orders since the government began crushing the pro-democracy movement.

In another display of the widening crackdown on dissidents, state television in Beijing showed protest leaders being packed into police vans, their heads shaved and signs dangling from their necks describing their alleged crimes.

Government-controlled media reported numerous arrests in other cities.

1st Since Protest Was Crushed

The death sentences in Shanghai were the first announced since Chinese troops opened fire on pro-democracy demonstrators in Beijing on June 3-4, crushing a 7-week-old reform movement.

The hard-line government has since reported arresting more than 1,000 people in a nationwide crackdown in which the student protest leaders have been branded as counterrevolutionaries.

Television said the three men sentenced to death were charged with setting a train on fire and beating security officials who tried to extinguish the blaze. National television showed the three men being sentenced in a courtroom.

The train incident occurred June 6 when six protesters were killed as they stood at a barricade on the tracks near the Shanghai train station and a train from Beijing did not stop in time.

People in a large crowd set fire to the train and fought with firefighters and police who came to put it out, injuring 21.

The three condemned men "frenziedly smashed the railway carriages and set fire to police motorcycles and the carriages" during the attack, the official New China News Agency reported. "They also prevented firefighters from extinguishing the fire and beat them cruelly."

The news agency identified the men as Xu Guoming, a contract worker at a brewery; Bian Hanwu, who is unemployed, and Yan Xuerong, a radio factory worker. They were given three days to appeal.

In Beijing, the noon news showed 26 workers, their heads shaven, being led by armed police onto a stage before a packed hall in the northeastern city of Changchun.

Several had large placards around their necks giving their names and accusing them of instigating social unrest and spreading rumors.

The signs said they had been sentenced to labor reform, a type of prison.

The placards are a throwback to the 1966-76 Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution when leftist Red Guards paraded their victims through city streets wearing dunce caps and signs on their chests.

Martial law authorities also announced that they had caught two more fugitive pro-democracy leaders, bringing the total held to four since a nationwide hunt began two days ago.

State television said Xiong Wei, one of 21 "most wanted" student leaders of the seven-week protests, gave himself up to police, accompanied by his mother. He was shown being questioned.

The second man arrested was Liu Qiang, a leading activist in Beijing's Autonomous Workers Federation, which has been declared a counterrevolutionary organization and banned.

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