Tue, Dec 27, 2011 - Page 1 News List

China jails Chen Xi for Web essays

Reuters, BEIJING

A court in China yesterday sentenced a veteran dissident, Chen Xi (陳西), to 10 years in jail for subversion, his wife said, one of the heaviest sentences given for political charges since Nobel Prize winner Liu Xiaobo (劉曉波) was jailed two years ago.

A court in Guiyang tried Chen and swiftly found him guilty of “inciting subversion of state power,” and said he deserved a tough sentence of a decade in prison, his wife, Zhang Qunxuan (張群選), said by telephone.

“The judge said this was a major crime that had a malign impact and he was a repeated offender,” Zhang said.

“If the government wants democracy and progression, you need people who speak out their negative opinions,” she said. “To subvert you — can he do that? Does he have any army? Does he have a police force? Does he have courts? With a piece of paper and a pen, can he subvert you? Are you so fragile?”

Chen, 57, was convicted over 36 essays critical of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) that he published on overseas Chinese Web sites, Zhang said. The trial took about two-and-half hours, she added.

According to Zhang, Chen said he would not appeal because it would be futile.

The long sentence comes days after another dissident — Chen Wei (陳衛) from Sichuan Province — was jailed for nine years on similar charges of “inciting subversion.”

Liu, who was awarded last year’s Nobel Peace Prize, was convicted on Dec. 25, 2009, and jailed for 11 years for inciting subversion. In March this year, the dissident Liu Xianbin (劉賢斌) was also jailed for 10 years on subversion charges.

This month, a Beijing court sent one of China’s best known rights lawyers, Gao Zhisheng (高智晟), back to jail, though he appears never to have escaped secretive confinement in the first place.

Beijing chose the quiet Christmas period for these trials as it was trying to avoid international attention and diplomatic censure, said Nicholas Bequelin, a researcher on China for New York-based Human Rights Watch.

Police held hundreds of dissidents, rights activists and protest organizers in a crackdown on dissent this year, when the CCP sought to prevent the possibility of protests inspired by anti-authoritarian uprisings in the Arab world.

However, Chen Xi was arrested only last month after being released from a week-long detention triggered by his campaigning for independent candidates seeking to win places in the CCP-controlled National People’s Congress, Zhang said.

Chen is a former soldier and factory worker who was jailed for three years for his support for 1989 pro-democracy protests that ended after troops crushed demonstrations, his wife said.

He was again jailed in 1996, but since his release in 2005, he had been an organizer of a citizens’ human rights forum in Guiyang.

China uses a firewall of Internet filters and blocks to prevent citizens from reading Web sites abroad deemed to be politically unacceptable. However, many activist use technology to break through obstructions and publish on uncensored Web sites.

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