China Sentences Dissident Writer to 10 Years in Jail

Posted January 19th, 2012 at 4:25 am (UTC-5)
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Chinese writer and democracy activist Li Tie has been sentenced to 10 years in prison after penning a series of essays urging citizens to defend their rights.

A relative of the activist said Thursday Li was found guilty of “subversion of state power” by a court in central China earlier this week.

The relative says Li maintained his innocence throughout the trial, and that the court refused to allow him to choose his own attorney.

Wang Songlian of the Hong Kong-based Chinese Human Rights Defenders group tells VOA the 52-year-old activist was jailed for posting online articles that criticized the government and promoted democracy.

“He was taken away by police quite a long time ago. And then he was tried in April last year and was not given a sentence until many months later, which was yesterday.”

Li is the third Chinese dissident in less than a month to receive a lengthy prison sentence for inciting subversion. In December, Chinese courts gave a nine year prison sentence to veteran democracy activist Chen Wei and jailed fellow activist Chen Xi for 10 years after they posted online articles that the government deemed subversive.

Wang says there is a certain degree of space for Chinese activists to write on democracy and human rights. But she says laws dealing with subversion are often carried out inconsistently.

“The line is often constantly shifting, and that's how the government creates fear – by the fact that it is not so clear where the line is drawn.”

Chinese authorities have recently enacted a much stiffer crackdown on dissent, which is believed to be aimed at preventing anti-government protests like those that have swept across much of the Arab world.

On Monday, U.S. Ambassador to Beijing Gary Locke said China's human rights record is deteriorating in the face of pro-democracy protests in the Middle East. He said China's human rights climate is “in a down period and it's getting worse.”

But China's foreign ministry rejected the claim. It said that Beijing respects human rights and is only arresting those in violation of Chinese law.

Activists say they expect increased monitoring and arrests ahead of a pivotal transition in Chinese communist party leadership that is scheduled for later in the year.