A legal rights activist in China was sentenced to 7.5 years in prison on subversion charges today, in the second in a series of cases underscoring the ruling Communist Party's determination to rein in government critics.
State broadcaster CCTV said Hu Shigen, (pictured), had pleaded guilty to "subversion, damaging national security and harming social stability'' at the start of his hearing before the Tianjin No. 2 Intermediate People's Court.
It said Hu had decided not to appeal the sentence.
His brief trial came a day after the court issued a suspended three-year sentence to activist Zhai Yanmin. Both were arrested in July last year with two others as part of a nationwide crackdown on legal rights activists. About 300 lawyers and activists were initially seized and questioned before most were released.
Hu, 61, was accused of leading an "underground organization'' that masqueraded as a church but was dedicated to identifying and drawing attention to accusations of government abuses. He worked with others, some of whom are also facing trial this week, to "organize activities that manipulated public opinion and disturbed public order,'' prosecutors were quoted as saying by state media.
"Hu's ideology and his behaviors have seriously harmed the country and social stability,'' state media quoted prosecutors as saying.
Hu had been sentenced in 1994 to 20 years in prison on the now-abolished charge of counterrevolution in connection with his political activities, but was released in 2008 after his sentence was reduced. His previous prison term contributed to his harsh sentencing in the most recent case, prosecutors said.
"After completing his criminal punishment, Hu Shigen again committed crimes against national security and, as a recidivist, should be severely punished under the law,'' prosecutors said.
A graduate of prestigious Peking University, Hu was a professor in the capital when he became active with a would-be political opposition party following the army's violent crackdown on 1989 pro-democracy protests centered on Beijing's Tiananmen Square.
Two other cases are expected to be heard by the court in the northern Chinese city this week, including those of activist Gou Hongguo and lawyer Zhou Shifeng, head of the Fengrui Law Firm that frequently took on sensitive cases and represented numerous government critics.
More than a dozen other lawyers and activists remain jailed, their legal status uncertain.-AP