Hu Jia, a human rights activist and dissident, was on Thursday sentenced to three and half years in jail for 'subverting' the state, in a verdict that might draw more global attention on China's human rights record ahead of the Olympics in Beijing in August.
Hu, aged 34, who was in custody since December 2007, drawing criticism from Western powers and human rights groups, was also deprived of political rights for a year by the Beijing First Intermediate Peoples Court in its judgment pronounced on Thursday in his and family's presence.
Hu, unemployed and holder of a college degree, had 'libeled the Chinese political and social systems, and instigated subversion of the state, which is a crime under Chinese law,' the court ruled.
He was handed down the sentence for publishing articles from August 2006 to October 2007 on overseas-run websites, making comments in interviews with foreign media and repeatedly instigating other people to 'subvert the states political power and socialist system,' the court was told.
In his two articles on websites, 'China, Political Law-enforcement Organs Create Large Scale Terror ahead of the Communist Party of China National Congress' and 'One Country Doesnt Need Two Systems', Hu spread 'malicious rumours and committed libel in an attempt to subvert the states political power and socialist system,' it said.
Both his lawyer and Hu himself defended the case, official Xinhua news agency said in its report on the court pronouncement.
The case of Hu, who spoke of democratic rights, religious freedom and great autonomy for Tibet, had come under the spotlight on the issue of China's human rights record.
US secretary of sate Condoleezza Rice had taken up the issue with the Chinese leaders during her visit to Beijing in February, as did the European Union and other Western governments, which have been reminding Beijing to improve its human rights record.
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