Dissident crackdown regrettable, says Canada

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 03 February, 1999, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 03 February, 1999, 12:00am

The crackdown on mainland dissidents was described by Canada's ambassador to China yesterday as a regrettable step backwards on human rights.

Howard Balloch said societies tended to change slowly, making it longer for China's political institutions to catch up with expectations of greater sensitivity.

The management of recent trials of three dissidents, all jailed for alleged involvement with prostitutes, was 'very unfortunate', Mr Balloch told a Hong Kong luncheon. Referring to Han Lifa and Cai Guihua of the China Democracy Party - both jailed for nine months - and Peng Ming, founder of the China Development Union and detained for 15 days, Mr Balloch said: 'We did not understand, nor did we have explained to us, how these people had carried out the crimes.

'My Government made it clear we saw this as a regrettable step backwards in a situation which otherwise seemed to be moving in a positive direction.' The positive direction included changes in 1997 to the Criminal Procedures Act to incorporate the presumption of innocence and the right to legal counsel, said Mr Balloch.

But he added: 'The judicial processes that were pursued fell short of the standard set in the Criminal Procedures Act. We made [this] very clear to Beijing. When one is watching the one step backwards today, the two steps forward of yesterday are quickly forgotten.'