(Reuters) – A court in China sentenced on Monday a veteran dissident, Chen Xi, 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 was jailed two years ago.
The court in Guiyang, southwest China, swiftly tried Chen and declared him guilty of “inciting subversion of state power”, and said he deserved a tough sentence of a decade in prison, his wife, Zhang Qunxuan, told Reuters.
“The judge said this was a major crime that had a malign impact and he was a repeated offender,” Zhang said by telephone.
“When the court announced the verdict, Chen Xi said he would bow to the decision and would not appeal, but insisted that he was innocent,” she added.
“The court ignored all the points raised by the defense lawyer at the trial, so what point is there in appealing?,” said Zhang.
Chen Xi, 57, was convicted over 36 essays critical of the ruling Communist Party that he published on overseas Chinese websites, said Zhang.
An official at the Guiyang People’s Intermediate Court telephoned by Reuters declined to give any information or to give contact details for the division of the court that tried Chen.
“Inciting subversion” is a charge often used to punish dissidents critical of the Communist Party, and China’s party-run courts rarely find in favor of defendants in trials, especially for political charges.
The Communist Party leadership is preparing for a leadership handover late next year, when its long-standing focus on fending off political challenges is likely to intensify.
The long sentence comes days after another dissident — Chen Wei from Sichuan province in southwest China — was jailed for nine years on similar charges of “inciting subversion”. Chen is a common family name in China, and the two men are not related.
Liu Xiaobo, who was awarded the 2010 Nobel Peace Prize, was convicted on December 25, 2009, and jailed for 11 years for inciting subversion. In March this year, the dissident Liu Xianbin was also jailed for 10 years on subversion charges.
Police held hundreds of dissidents, rights activists and protest organizers in a crackdown on dissent this year, when the Communist Party sought to prevent the possibility of protests inspired by anti-authoritarian uprisings in the Arab world.
Chen Xi, however, 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 party-controlled People’s Congress assemblies, said Zhang.
Police confiscated his computer, which was apparently used to obtain the evidence used to convict him.
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, said his wife.
He was again jailed in 1996, but since his release in 2005 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 or socially unsound.
But many rights activist use technology to break through those obstructions and publish on uncensored websites.