A Chinese court on Sunday sentenced political activist Chen Xi to 10 years in prison for inciting subversion. The charges against Chen, 57, stemmed from more than 30 political essays [Guardian report] that he had published online. He was detained late last month after he helped to campaign for independent candidates running in the upcoming elections. Chen has been politically active for decades and has been jailed numerous times as a result. In 1989, he was jailed for supporting student protests, and in 1995, he received another prison sentence of 10 years. The judge who ruled on Chen's case after a short trial cited Chen's repeated offenses as one reason behind the most recent lengthy jail sentence. Chen maintains his innocence but has no plans to appeal the ruling. His sentence is one of the longest terms ever handed down for inciting subversion in China. Two longer sentences for subversion convictions belong to Nobel Laureate Liu Xiaobo [BBC profile; JURIST news archive], who has been serving an 11-year sentence [JURIST report] since 2009, and Liu Xianbin, who was jailed for 10 years in March.
Chen is the second dissident in four days to be sentenced in the ongoing government crackdown on dissidents, rights activists and protest organizers. Last week, a Chinese court sentenced [JURIST report] human rights advocate Chen Wei, who is unrelated to Chen Xi, to nine years in prison. Chen Wei, 42, was sentenced after a two-hour hearing in which he pleaded not guilty to inciting subversion of state power. He was charged for having written essays critical of the Communist Party, which he published on overseas Chinese websites, avoiding the national Internet censorship firewalls. Chen was one of more than 130 activists detained after the US-based news site Boxun [website, in Chinese] reported an anonymous appeal for people to stage protests across China last February. The vast majority of those detained have been released without charges or on bail, but officials apparently wanted to make an example of Chen, and China's party-run courts rarely find in favor of defendants in trials for political charges. Amnesty International [advocacy website] called the sentence unacceptable and urged Chinese authorities to release Chen immediately [press release].