China sentences rights activist Chen Wei to nine years in jail 

 

A Chinese court sentenced a veteran activist today to nine years in prison for inciting subversion, in what appears to be the most severe punishment handed down in a crackdown to prevent the spread of Arab Spring-style democratic uprisings.

Chen Wei was convicted of incitement to subversion over four essays he wrote and published online, said one of his lawyers. He was detained in February amid an extensive government crackdown in response to anonymous online calls urging Chinese to imitate protests in North Africa and the Middle East. 

Attorney Liang Xiaojun said that the trial at a court in the city of Suining in southwestern China lasted about two hours and that the sentence was handed down 30 minutes after the trial concluded. 

"We pleaded not guilty. He only wrote a few essays," Liang said. "We presented a full defence of the case, but we were interrupted often, and none of what we said was accepted by the court." 

Liang said that after the sentence was handed down, Chen said: "I protest. I am innocent. Constitutional democracy must win, autocracy must die." 

The trial was the first time Chen's wife, Wang Xiaoyan, saw her husband since he was detained more than 300 days ago, and she said he looked like he had aged a lot. Wang denounced the punishment. 

"He is innocent, and the punishment was too harsh," she said by phone from Suining. "The court did not allow him to defend himself, and he was completely deprived of his right to free speech. What's wrong with a person freely expressing his ideas?" 

Chen, 42, previously served time for participating in the 1989 Tiananmen Square pro-democracy demonstrations in Beijing, where he was attending college. In 1994, he was sentenced to five years in prison for "counterrevolutionary propaganda and incitement," according to the court indictment for his subversion charge. 

The sentence handed down to Chen today appears to be the heaviest penalty meted out in relation to this year's crackdown, said Wang Songlian, a researcher with Chinese Human Rights Defenders, a Hong Kong-based advocacy group. 

"This severe punishment against an activist caught up in the Jasmine crackdown shows how the Chinese government's nerves are still jittery," Wang said. 

"All its latest moves, its attempts to control its microblogs, its crackdown on activists, show it is increasing tightening on freedom of expression and other civil liberties," she said. 

Others rounded up in this year's crackdown who have been punished include Beijing activist Wang Lihong, who was sentenced to nine months in jail in September for staging a protest on behalf of other activists, and Yang Qiuyu, a Beijing activist who was sentenced to two years of re-education through labour. 

Amnesty International said Chen's sentence was only the latest case of the government's use of the vague charge of inciting subversion against its political critics. 

"It's heartbreaking news and clearly retaliation for Chen Wei's peaceful critique of the Chinese Communist Party," said Catherine Baber, Amnesty International's deputy director for Asia. "Chen Wei is a prisoner of conscience and should be released immediately." 

Others jailed in recent years on the same charge include Chinese dissident and Nobel Peace Prize laureate Liu Xiaobo, for 11 years, and veteran activist Liu Xianbin, for 10 years. 

Chen said before the trial that he would not appeal the sentence and is likely to stick to that, his wife said. "He doesn't want to join them in this pretense. There's no need to," she said. 

AP

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
News
people
News
Richard Blair is concerned the trenches are falling into disrepair
newsGeorge Orwell's son wants to save war site that inspired book
Life and Style
Audrey Hepburn with Hubert De Givenchy, whose well-cut black tuxedo is a 'timeless look'
fashionIt may be a paradox, but the industry loves it
Arts and Entertainment
The pair in their heyday in 1967
music
Life and Style
fashionFrom bathing dresses in the twenties to modern bikinis
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Guru Careers: Software Developer / C# Developer

£40-50K: Guru Careers: We are seeking an experienced Software / C# Developer w...

Guru Careers: Software Developer

£35 - 40k + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Software Developer (JavaS...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant / Resourcer

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Commission: SThree: As a Trainee Recruitment Consu...

Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, HTML, CSS, JavaScript, AngularJS)

£25000 - £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, JavaScript, HTML...

Day In a Page

Abuse - and the hell that came afterwards

Abuse - and the hell that follows

James Rhodes on the extraordinary legal battle to publish his memoir
Why we need a 'tranquility map' of England, according to campaigners

It's oh so quiet!

The case for a 'tranquility map' of England
'Timeless fashion': It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it

'Timeless fashion'

It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it
If the West needs a bridge to the 'moderates' inside Isis, maybe we could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive after all

Could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive?

Robert Fisk on the Fountainheads of World Evil in 2011 - and 2015
New exhibition celebrates the evolution of swimwear

Evolution of swimwear

From bathing dresses in the twenties to modern bikinis
Sun, sex and an anthropological study: One British academic's summer of hell in Magaluf

Sun, sex and an anthropological study

One academic’s summer of hell in Magaluf
From Shakespeare to Rising Damp... to Vicious

Frances de la Tour's 50-year triumph

'Rising Damp' brought De la Tour such recognition that she could be forgiven if she'd never been able to move on. But at 70, she continues to flourish - and to beguile
'That Whitsun, I was late getting away...'

Ian McMillan on the Whitsun Weddings

This weekend is Whitsun, and while the festival may no longer resonate, Larkin's best-loved poem, lives on - along with the train journey at the heart of it
Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath in a new light

Songs from the bell jar

Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath
How one man's day in high heels showed him that Cannes must change its 'no flats' policy

One man's day in high heels

...showed him that Cannes must change its 'flats' policy
Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Dominic Rossi of Fidelity says his pressure on business to control rewards is working. But why aren’t other fund managers helping?
The King David Hotel gives precious work to Palestinians - unless peace talks are on

King David Hotel: Palestinians not included

The King David is special to Jerusalem. Nick Kochan checked in and discovered it has some special arrangements, too
More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years

End of the Aussie brain drain

More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years
Meditation is touted as a cure for mental instability but can it actually be bad for you?

Can meditation be bad for you?

Researching a mass murder, Dr Miguel Farias discovered that, far from bringing inner peace, meditation can leave devotees in pieces
Eurovision 2015: Australians will be cheering on their first-ever entrant this Saturday

Australia's first-ever Eurovision entrant

Australia, a nation of kitsch-worshippers, has always loved the Eurovision Song Contest. Maggie Alderson says it'll fit in fine