BEIJING — THE student ``most wanted'' in China's crackdown on liberal activists faced trial yesterday on charges that he helped incite the massive, popular protests for basic liberties in 1989. Wang Dan, a former student at Beijing University, was No. 1 on an official, wanted list of 21 student activists whom the government claims helped orchestrate the mass movement for liberal reform. The young dissident was charged with ``counter-revolutionary propaganda and incitement.''
His trial is the first against what Beijing considers to be the core leaders of the ``Beijing Spring'' movement. Apparently Mr. Wang has also been a lead figure for student activists in jail, much as he was in Tiananmen Square. His sentence will indicate how severely the politically colored court will deal with other jailed university students, Chinese sources say.
The state has accused Wang of organizing one of the key spawning grounds for the protests, an outdoor forum for discussions about democracy at Beijing University. The popular ``democracy salon,'' occasionally addressed by now-exiled dissident Fang Lizhi, was a lively hub for student debate on political issues in 1988 and 1989.
Wang, a former history major, played a central role in the student marches and mass demonstrations in Tiananmen Square. He was arrested about a month after the Army cleared the square in a violent onslaught June 3-4, 1989.
Wang is the 25th activist to have stood trial. The Beijing Intermediate People's Court has declined requests for interviews on the dissidents' cases and forbids foreign journalists from covering their trials.
China's leadership plans to complete the sentencing for dozens of imprisoned activists before Feb. 15, the beginning of the new year according to the Chinese lunar calendar, Chinese sources say.