China

Chinese activist Hu Shigen jailed for subversion

In this photo taken Tuesday, Aug. 2, 2016, an elderly man and woman ride on an electric bike past the Chinese words for Tianjin No. 2 Intermediate People"s Court in northern China"s Tianjin Municipality Image copyright AP
Image caption Chinese activist Hu Shigen is one of around 300 lawyers and activists arrested since last year as part of a nationwide government campaign against legal activism

A Chinese activist has been jailed for more than seven years for subversion, the second person jailed in two days in a crackdown on legal activism.

Hu Shigen pleaded guilty in Tianjin to "damaging national security and harming social stability", said state media.

On Tuesday, Zhai Yanmin was found guilty of subversion and handed a three-year suspended jail sentence. Two more activists also face trial.

The cases have been widely seen as an attempt to silence government critics.

Around 300 lawyers and activists have been arrested since last year as part of the nationwide campaign. About 20 are still detained.

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Image copyright AP
Image caption Activist Zhai Yanmin was found guilty of subverting state powers and handed a suspended three-year sentence

'709' crackdown

Hu was convicted after a trial lasting a few hours. He was described by state broadcaster CCTV as the "leader of an underground church" that masqueraded as a religious body but was dedicated to drawing attention to allegations of government abuses.

State media quoted prosecutors as saying his "ideology and his behaviours have seriously harmed the country and social stability".

He had previously served 20 years in prison for the now-abolished charge of counter-revolution, but was released in 2008.

Image copyright AP
Image caption Families and supporters of those on trial called it "ridiculous and evil"

China's crackdown targeted the country's small human rights advocacy movement, and involved lawyers tackling cases to do with freedom of speech, religion or abuses of power.

Several linked to the same Beijing law firm, Fengrui, were arrested.

On Monday, prominent Fengrui lawyer Wang Yu was apparently released on bail, after a video appeared in which she renounced her legal work.

But it was not clear when the video was filmed, nor whether Ms Wang was now free.

Fengrui's head, Zhou Shifeng, and another activist Gou Hongguo are also going on trial in Tianjin this week.

The detained lawyers and activists are widely known as "709", a reference to the date the crackdown was launched on 9 July 2015.

In a statement earlier this week, the families and supporters called the trials "ridiculous and evil", calling for them to be given international attention.

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