Chinese writer Chen Wei faces trial on Friday accused of inciting subversion for online essays advocating democracy, in the latest aftershock of a drive against dissent earlier this year, his wife and defense lawyer said.

Chen will be tried in Suining, a city in the southwest province of Sichuan, where he pursued an career as an ardent advocate of political rights, freedom of speech and replacing China's one-party rule with democracy.

Beijing has grappled over how to keep censorship of the Internet, while allowing citizens some space for sharing their views. But dissidents, such as Chen, who directly challenge Communist Party rule, risk jail.

He's being tried for inciting subversion of state power, said his wife, Wang Xiaoyan, citing the indictment.

It was for nothing but his essays. He'll maintain that he's completely innocent, she said in a telephone interview.

I hope to see him in the courtroom, she added. I haven't seen him since he was detained.

Chen, 42, was one of hundreds of dissidents, rights activists and protest organizers swept up in a crackdown on dissent from earlier this year, when the ruling Communist Party sought to stifle potential protests inspired by anti-authoritarian uprisings across the Arab world.

Many of those detained in the crackdown have been released but remain under constant police watch. But Chen is likely to stay locked up. China's party-run courts rarely find in favor of defendants in trials for political charges.

Chen's defense lawyer, Liang Xiaojun, confirmed that Chen is accused of inciting subversion of state power for 26 essays he published online and for an overseas magazine.

Liang said Chen appeared to be quite healthy.

The Chinese government's hostility to political dissent is likely to grow next year as the Communist Party's prepares for a leadership handover.

Chen, who was detained February, signed the Charter 08 manifesto for democratic reform that was co-written by Liu Xiaobo, the jailed dissident who won the 2010 Nobel Peace Prize.

Two other dissidents from Sichuan detained at about the same as Chen -- Ran Yunfei and Ding Mao -- have been released.

Chen was jailed for taking part in the pro-democracy protests centered on Tiananmen Square in Beijing that ended in the armed crackdown of June 4, 1989. He was released in late 1990.

(Reporting by Chris Buckley; Editing by Ed Lane)