Thu, Nov 15, 2007 - Page 1 News List

Chinese civil rights activist sentenced to five years in jail

AGENCIES , BEIJING

A prominent Chinese civil rights activist was jailed for five years yesterday after being found guilty of running an illegal business, his lawyer and his wife said.

Guo Feixiong (郭飛雄), 41, was convicted by a court in southern Guangzhou City and fined 40,000 yuan (US$5,400), lawyer Hu Xiao (胡嘯) said.

Guo, who was arrested in September last year, was accused of participating in the illegal publication of a book that exposed widespread corruption among government officials in Shenyang in 2001, Hu said.

His wife, Zhang Qing (張青), who was in court yesterday morning when the sentence was delivered, said her husband's charge had been trumped up because officials wanted to punish him for his social activism.

"The punishment was very unfair and I'm extremely angry about it," she said in a telephone interview, adding that she would go on a one-day hunger strike to protest the verdict.

"It's obviously a case of political persecution," she said.

Her husband had appeared calm after the verdict was announced, she said.

"He told the judge: `You are using a roundabout way to promote China's democratic movement ... and I'm very proud to play a role in this,'" Zhang said of Guo.

She said authorities had seized on the fact that the book had been published without a licence as an excuse to punish Guo, who had tried to help villagers in numerous land confiscation cases in Guangdong Province.

He was particularly well known for helping residents in a land dispute in Guangdong's Taishi village that started in 2004.

Guo was also an associate of dissident lawyer Gao Zhisheng (高智晟), who was tried for subversion last December after he called the government-led crackdown on the Falun Gong spiritual group "unconstitutional."

China also sentenced a human rights campaigner yesterday to 18 months of "reeducation through labor" after she organized a petition urging democratic reform, an overseas group said yesterday.

Liu Jie (劉杰), a former farmer from the country's far northeast, received the sentence for "disturbing social order," China Human Rights Defenders said in an e-mail, citing Liu's husband.

After battling authorities in Heilongjiang Province over her confiscated dairy business, 55-year-old Liu evolved into an unyielding grassroots campaigner among petitioners coming to Beijing with grievances over rights and alleged corruption.

Before the Chinese Communist Party's congress last month, she helped organize a petition demanding legal rights and democratic reforms. Liu was detained on Oct. 13.

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