China jails dissident rights activist

April 3rd, 2008 - 2:21 pm ICT by admin  

Beijing, April 3 (DPA) Well-known Chinese dissident Hu Jia was sentenced Thursday to three and a half years for criticising the ruling Communist Party, his lawyer told reporters outside the court. The Beijing Number One Intermediate People’s Court found Hu, 34, guilty of “inciting subversion of state power”, lawyer Li Fangping said.

The human rights activist argued he was not guilty at a closed sentencing session Wednesday, following his trial March 18.

“I can’t draw any conclusion about whether it is related to the Olympics or not,” Li said when asked about Hu’s case, which rights groups have said is part of a pre-Olympic crackdown on dissent.

Li said he had feared a higher sentence of five years and was not clear why a lighter one was passed.

“As for an appeal, we must wait until we have discussed it with Hu Jia and respect his opinion,” he said.

The government said Hu had “libelled the Chinese political and social systems, and instigated subversion of the state, which is a crime under Chinese law”.

Prosecutors had told the court that Hu “published articles on overseas-run websites, made comments in interviews with foreign media, and repeatedly instigated other people to subvert the Chinese political and socialist systems”.

In two articles covering China’s development of democracy, Hu had “spread malicious rumours… in an attempt to subvert the state’s political and socialist systems”, the agency quoted the court verdict as saying.

The prosecution of Hu went ahead despite appeals from the European Union (EU), the US and rights groups for his release.

He was detained Dec 27 but had spent most of the previous two years under house arrest or other forms of detention.

During his house arrest, Hu continued to post details of human rights abuses on the internet and frequently spoke to foreign journalists about the cases.

Hu is best known for his advocacy for the rights of people living with HIV and AIDS in China, winning several international awards.

Reacting to the sentence Thursday, the group China Human Rights Defenders said the case was a “classic case of political persecution”.

Paris-based Reporters Without Borders said it was “appalled” by the sentence and urged European nations to suspend human rights dialogues with China.

“The Chinese justice system has, at the behest of the authorities, thrown oil on the flames just four months ahead of the Olympic Games by imposing this sentence of Hu Jia, a figurehead of the peaceful struggle to improve respect for human rights in China,” Reporters Without Borders said in a statement.

“In a sign of protest, we urge the European governments to immediately freeze the constructive dialogue on human rights that has been conducted with China for the past few years,” it said.

In a statement last month, the EU presidency urged China to “release Hu Jia together with all other writers, journalists and others detained for reporting on or demonstrating against human rights abuses”.

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