New York-based Human Rights Watch yesterday called for the unconditional release of a veteran Chinese rights activist after he was jailed for 13 years for subversion, one of the longest sentences handed down in a multi-year crackdown.
News of the activist's jailing came a day after China allowed Liu Xia, the widow of dissident and Nobel Peace laureate Liu Xiaobo, to travel to Germany, after holding her in effective house arrest since 2010.
The activist, Qin Yongmin, founded the Rose Group of grassroots rights activists in 2014, then ran it and published essays and articles urging democratic reform in China.
Qin, 64, had previously been jailed and sent to China's "re-education through labor" camps on charges of "disrupting social order" after he called for redress for victims of the military crackdown on 1989's pro-democracy Tiananmen protests.
"Having spent over two decades in prison, Qin Yongmin has already paid an astronomical price for exercising his basic rights to advocate peacefully for political reforms," said Sophie Richardson, the China director of Human Rights Watch.
"The Chinese government should reverse the latest judgment and release him immediately," she said.
The sentence was announced on the website of a court in the city of Wuhan, following a closed-door trial Qin's family had been barred from attending, a Hong Kong-based group, Chinese Human Rights Defenders, said.