CHINA: When Leniency Is Severity

CHINA: When Leniency Is Severity

Four years in jail is a stiff punishment for joining in a peaceful demonstration. Still, the seven individuals sentenced earlier this month to two- to four-year prison terms for their part in Beijing's 1989 Tiananmen Square protests got off relatively lightly. Ordinarily in China, their alleged crimes -- ranging from spreading counter-revolutionary propaganda to subversion -- bring 10- to 15-year terms.

The trials, which were closed to reporters, were the first related to the Tiananmen affair; at least another 355 protesters are yet to have their day in court. In demonstrating leniency, the court was clearly influenced by international pressure to...

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