Wed, Oct 18, 2006 - Page 4 News List

Chinese Internet dissident jailed on subversion charges

AFP , BEIJING

A Chinese cyber-dissident was jailed for four years for subversion yesterday after posting politically sensitive essays on the Internet, his lawyer said.

A local court in China's northern Hebei Province convicted rights activist Guo Qizhen (郭起真) of "subverting state sovereignty," lawyer Li Jianqiang said.

"We believe the court did not give a just verdict," Li said.

"We believe Guo Qizhen's criticism of the government was within his rights under the constitution," Li added, saying that he would appeal the verdict.

After his verdict was announced, Guo spoke to his teenage son and told him he would be vindicated one day, said Li.

"He delivered a long speech to defend himself during the trial and trusted the court would listen to him," Li said.

Guo wrote many articles critical of the Chinese government on overseas Web sites. His arrest in May was linked to his participation in a hunger strike to protest human rights violations, said press freedom campaign group Reporters Without Borders (RWP) this month.

Guo is also well known for his vocal criticism of corruption and his sympathy towards the plight of underprivileged people.

The Paris-based RWP had previously condemned Guo's arrest and called for his release.

"The charge of subversion, which is frequently used against cyber-dissidents, is a legal aberration," the group said on its Web site.

Human and media rights groups say China's leaders are tightening their crackdown on dissent and are intensifying control over the Internet and traditional press amid increasing social unrest.

In August, China sentenced veteran Hong Kong journalist Ching Cheong (程翔) to five years in prison for spying on behalf of Taiwan.

Two months ago, Zhao Yan (趙岩), a Chinese researcher for the New York Times, was sentenced to three years in jail for fraud after he was found not guilty of leaking state secrets.

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