A court convicted four students on Saturday for their roles in leading the 1989 pro-democracy movement but gave them relatively lenient sentences ranging from two to four years.
The four were at the forefront of seven weeks of marches through Beijing streets that ended with an army attack in June 1989 in which hundreds and perhaps thousands of people were killed.The four studens were the first leading figures from the protests to be tried following months of government delay. Five other protesters also were tried Saturday. Two were released without punishment and the other three received light sentences.
Western embassies in Beijing did not immediately comment on the sentences, but one American human rights activist called them a rebuke to a U.S. envoy who had pressed Beijing to release all political prisoners.
The announcement of the sentences, carried by the state Xinhua News Agency, was the first word that trials were under way. Repeated applications by foreign reporters to attend trials were ignored and requests for information on the timing of trials were refused.
With credit for time served, student leader Zheng Xuguang could be released in seven months and the other students - Wang Youcai, Ma Shaofang and Zhang Ming - within three years.
They were charged variously with inciting subversion against the government, organizing attacks against martial law forces or gathering crowds to disrupt public order, Xinhua said. It did not say who was charged with which crimes.