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Chinese workers party ‘launched’

BBC News, Friday 1 January 1999, published at 15:30 GMT

China's Government is cracking down on dissidents.

Dissidents in China are forming an independent party to campaign on behalf of workers, a human rights group has said.

The US-based Free China Movement said the new Chinese Labour Party would try to protect workers' rights and help those who have lost their jobs.

The new organisation has said it will not compete with China's ruling Communist Party.

In recent weeks, leaders of the opposition China Democracy Party have been jailed for attempting to defend the rights of workers.

The crackdown has prompted dissidents in China and in exile to protest and demand the release of jailed pro-democracy campaigners.

But Chinese leaders have said they will intensify efforts to quash challenges to the Communist Party. China marks several major anniversaries this year, including the 10th anniversary of the Tiananmen Square protest.

More than 30 dissidents have been detained in the past month. Some have been given lengthy prison sentences after being convicted of subversion.

They include veteran activist Xu Wenli sentenced to 13 years in prison and two other influential figures in the China Democracy Party - Qin Yongmin and Wang Youcai, who were jailed for 12 and 11 years.