China jails dissident to 6 years for helping opposition group
Wang Rongqing had helped to organise the China Democratic Party, a scattered group that spread across the country in the late 1990s.
A Chinese court sentenced a long-time dissident to 6 years in jail for helping to organise an opposition group, a rights organisation and supporters said on Thursday, as the government seeks to stifle dissent.
A court in eastern China's Hangzhou, capital of Zhejiang province, on Wednesday convicted Wang Rongqing, 65, of "subversion of state power", the China Human Rights Defenders said in an email.
Wang had helped to organise the China Democratic Party, a scattered group that spread across the country in the late 1990s.
Zou Wei, a Hangzhou dissident who said he attended the conviction hearing, said the sentence was a harsh one that was intended to quell political criticism as the ruling Communist Party enters a year of sensitive anniversaries, including the 20th year since troops crushed pro-democracy protests centred on Beijing's Tiananmen Square.
"Now there are nine Democratic Party members in jail in Zhejiang," Zou told Reuters by telephone. "They hope Wang's sentence will warn off others from trying the same."
Zou confirmed the sentence was for 6 years, as did Zan Aizong, another Hangzhou-based dissident close to Wang.
The government also last month detained Liu Xiaobo, a leading voice in the 1989 protests who helped organise the "Charter 08" campaign for democratic change.
Wang was not given a chance to speak after a judge read out the verdict, so it was unclear whether he will appeal, said Zou.
"I yelled to him to keep strong and appeal, but he held his hand up as if to say there was no use," said Zou. "Chinese courts do what the Party tells them to."
Officials in the Intermediate Court in Hangzhou, which sentenced Wang, did not answer questions about the case.
The Chinese Human Rights Defenders said Wang was detained in June last year and was represented by a court-appointed lawyer. Wang is in bad health and needs crutches to walk, it said.
Wang has been engaged in pro-democracy campaigns since the late-1970s, the group said.
Reuters Last Mod: 08 Ocak 2009, 13:04