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China jails dissident for 10 years in seasonal wave of repression


A second prominent Chinese dissident and veteran of the 1989 pro-democracy movement has been given a hefty jail sentence for subversion, in a move that has been viewed as further evidence of a growing crackdown on dissent.

Chen Xi, an essayist, was found guilty of "incitement to subvert state power" for dozens of articles advocating reform and human rights that he posted online, which also criticised the ruling Communist Party. He was given 10 years in jail by a court in the southern Chinese city of Guiyang.

His heavy sentence comes three days after another dissident, Chen Wei, was jailed for nine years by a court in Suining, in Sichuan province, after being convicted of subversion.

Tensions are running high in China ahead of a crucial year, which will see the President, Hu Jintao, and the Premier, Wen Jiabao, gradually hand over power to a new generation of leaders, most likely Xi Jinping and Li Keqiang.

This year has seen tighter security aimed at preventing Arab Spring style unrest taking hold in China. And there is anxiety in the leadership over slowing economic growth and rising inflation, a fear that has been compounded by a series of violent protests in recent weeks the south of the country.

Chen Xi has played a significant role in the Guizhou Human Rights Forum, a network of activists that organised human rights and pro-democracy activities.

The United Nations Human Rights office has expressed alarm at the sentences handed down to both Chen Xi and Chen Wei.