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10-year prison term for China activist

Beijing, March 25 (AP): A longtime Chinese democracy activist was sentenced today to a heavy penalty of 10 years in prison for advocating government change in online articles that authorities say slandered Communist Party leadership as autocratic.

The trial came amid a vast crackdown on activism in China that may reflect government anxiety about unrest inspired by uprisings in West Asia and North Africa. Dozens of well-known Chinese lawyers and activists have vanished, been interrogated, held under house arrest or criminally detained for alleged subversion.

Activist Liu Xianbin, who has previously spent a decade in prison, was found guilty of inciting subversion of state power by the Suining Intermediate People’s Court in Sichuan province after a trial that lasted a few hours, his wife Chen Mingxian told The Associated Press.

Liu’s sentence is among the heaviest handed down for inciting subversion, an offence stipulated in Chinese criminal law as punishable by up to five years, or in serious cases, more than five years.

Chen, who attended the trial, said her husband was calm and composed and looked relatively well, but that the judge frequently interrupted Liu and his lawyer’s attempts to present a defence. Chen said that after the verdict was delivered, Liu shouted, apparently in frustration: “I’m innocent! I protest!”

“The 10-year sentence to me, because we’ve already been through 10 years ... (is) a repeat of the painful process, one in which I can only watch and wait anxiously,” said Chen, who is a schoolteacher. The couple have a 13-year-old daughter. China’s authoritarian government routinely uses the vaguely worded subversion charge to jail activists it considers troublemakers.

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