Japan to Bar Chinese Dissidents' Radio Ship


In an apparent gesture of reconciliation to Beijing's hard-line leadership, Japan said Wednesday that it will prevent a dissident Chinese radio ship from calling at Japanese ports before the ship attempts to beam unauthorized broadcasts at China from international waters.

Chief Cabinet Secretary Misoji Sakamoto told Japanese reporters that the Goddess of Democracy, as the ship is called, will not be allowed to stop in Japanese ports if it intends to carry out plans to mark the first anniversary of the June 3-4 Tian An Men Square crackdown by broadcasting pro-democracy messages.

"Pirate broadcasting from a ship in international waters is an act prohibited under the international telecommunications treaty," Sakamoto said at a news conference. "Such an act, if actually committed, is quite regrettable."

Under the terms of the International Telecommunications Union, of which Japan is a signatory, broadcasts from the open seas are prohibited.

Last week, Sakamoto, who is the government's official spokesman, had given hope to the organizers of the democracy ship by saying it would be allowed to dock in Japan so long as Japanese laws were not to be violated. His latest remarks, however, indicated the government had caved in to pressure from Beijing, which has signaled its determination to stop the broadcasts.

The Goddess of Democracy, a 1,200-ton ship sponsored by a French magazine, reportedly had been preparing to sail Wednesday night for Japan from the northern Taiwan port of Keelung.

In Taiwan, the crew, which includes many dissident students in exile from China, had hoped to pick up a radio transmitter sent from France. But customs officials would not release the equipment, citing the same international agreements as Sakamoto. Hong Kong, the British colony that will revert to Chinese sovereignty in seven years, also has refused to allow the Goddess of Democracy into port.

The crew apparently had hoped to obtain a radio transmitter in Japan.

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