China has jailed prominent dissident and pro-democracy activist Chen Wei for nine years on charges of ‘inciting subversion of state power,’ according to reports.
Chen, who was among hundreds of human rights campaigners arrested earlier this year, has long called for the establishment of freedom of speech in China and the radical reform of the political system. Reportedly, he was inspired by the revolutions in the Middle East and sought similar uprising in his homeland.
The court found Chen guilty based on articles and essays he penned for foreign websites which criticized China’s ruling class and one-party system.
Upon sentencing, Chen denied he was guilty and allegedly told the court that “Dictatorship will fail, democracy will prevail.
Chen’s wife Wang Xiaoyan said the trial, which was conducted in private in the city of Suining and lasted only a few hours, was a farce and that her husband’s fate was already guaranteed.
She told western media: I think today's trial is just a show. It's a performance. The verdict had been decided in advance. They don't allow people to speak. There is no freedom of speech.
She also said that her husband’s works have been misinterpreted by government officials,
He is a very patriotic man,” she added. “He did criticize the Communist Party, but that's stating the facts. That is not subversion.
Wang also indicated that Chen has no plans to appeal the verdict.
He said the verdict would be decided in advance and there is no point appealing. He wants to finish serving the terms quickly and come home quickly, she said.
We have a daughter who is not even 10 years old. I need to slowly explain to my daughter why her father is in jail.
Chen was earlier jailed for his participation in the 1989 demonstration in Tiananmen Square which were brutally crushed by Beijing.
BBC reported that Chen’s sentence was among the severest imposed by the authorities in response to the unrest in China inspired by the Arab Spring revolt.
Martin Patience, a BBC correspondent in Beijing, commented on Chen’s sentencing.
“It will certainly be seen as an attempt by the authorities to intimidate other dissidents thinking about speaking out,” he wrote.
“Chen Wei is well known within intellectual circles as a fierce critic of the government. He's called repeatedly for democracy and freedom of speech, and he writes essays which he publishes online. That's why he's been convicted, according to the authorities.”
Patience added: “Chen Wei gathered a bit of a following and as soon as the authorities see someone who has a following then they do move to stamp down on that kind of dissent.”
The prison term will only serve to further alienate Western nations.
The Daily Telegraph reported that a delegation from the European union (EU) cancelled a summit with Chinese officials over the country’s human rights record because Beijing refused to cooperate.