November 22, 2008 / 11:35 AM / 12 years ago

China may soon execute accused Taiwan spy -group

BEIJING (Reuters) - China could soon execute a man sentenced to death last year for spying for diplomatic and political rival Taiwan, human rights group Amnesty International said.

Wo Weihan was given the death sentence in May 2007 after a closed door trial and lost his appeal in February of this year, Amnesty said in a statement seen on Saturday.

Wo, a doctor, was accused of “discussing the health status of senior Chinese leaders, which is considered to be top secret and of sending information from a ‘classified’ magazine available in the Chinese Academy of Sciences library”, the group said.

On Nov. 18, the court told his family to apply to visit him within seven days, after having been refused visitation rights for the last four years, Amnesty said.

“This sudden move suggests that the Supreme People’s Court has approved the death sentence and that the Beijing Municipal Higher People’s Court is preparing to execute Wo Weihan,” the group added.

All death sentences now have to be approved by the country’s top court.

Wo, who suffered a brain haemorrhage in a detention centre in 2005, was forced to confess without a lawyer being present, and later recanted that confession and said he was innocent, Amnesty cited his family as saying.

China keeps secret the number of prisoners it executes, but international human rights observers have no doubt it judicially kills more than any other country, with estimates of executions somewhere between 1,000 and 12,000 a year in recent times.

While ties between China and Taiwan have warmed in the past few months following the election of a more China-friendly government on the democratic island Beijing claims sovereignty over, suspicions still run high between the two.

China has claimed self-ruled Taiwan since 1949, when Mao Zedong’s forces won the Chinese civil war and Chiang Kai-shek’s KMT fled to the island. Beijing has vowed to bring Taiwan under its rule, by force if necessary.

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