Vietnam begins investigating disappearance of three Chinese dissidents along border

HANOI, Vietnam - Vietnam said Thursday it is investigating the disappearance of three exiled Chinese dissidents whose families say they went missing more than a month ago while traveling along the country's northern border with China.

The investigation comes at the request of the U.S. and French Embassies, which provided details Monday to Vietnamese officials about Wang Bingzhang, Zhang Qi, and Yue Wu, said Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Phan Thuy Thanh.

"Based on this specific information, we have started our investigation," Thanh said. "When we have results, we will inform you at an early date."

The three have not been in contact with friends or family since June 26, when Wang telephoned a friend, Fang Yuan, who said Wang discussed the possibility of trying to enter China. The two had planned to call each other again June 29.

The families of Wang and Zhang, who are both U.S. permanent residents, contacted U.S. officials last week. Yue lives in France. All three are active in pro-democracy movements.

Last Friday, the U.S-based activist group China Democracy Party accused Chinese authorities of kidnapping the three.

Wang Xizhe, co-chair of the China Democracy Party, said they had arrived in Hanoi on June 16 to meet secretly with Chinese labor leaders and were abducted by Chinese security forces on June 26. They are being held at an undisclosed location, he said

The Chinese Foreign Ministry has denied knowledge of the case. In the southern Chinese province of Yunnan, which borders Vietnam, police officials and border guards said they had not heard about the alleged abductions.

The China Democracy Party said Wang Bingzhang, 54, was jailed twice in China for speaking out against the communist government.

He went into exile in Canada in 1979 and has lived in New York since the 1980s, publishing a pro-democracy magazine and organizing the Chinese Alliance for Democracy. He slipped into China in 1998 but was caught and deported.

Yue, 54, who lives in Paris, was a labor leader in the 1989 pro-democracy protests in Beijing's Tiananmen Square, the China Democracy Party said.

Zhang, a leader of banned health and meditation sect Zhong Gong, fled to Thailand in 2000 to escape government persecution. She was given political asylum in the United States last year.