Chinese activist jailed for 10 years: rights group

BEIJING, December 26, 2011 (AFP) - A Chinese court on Monday sentenced veteran activist Chen Xi to 10 years in jail for subversion, a rights group said, as authorities crack down on critics of the country's one-party government.

Chen, who was involved in the 1989 Tiananmen democracy protest movement, was convicted after a trial lasting just a few hours in the southwestern province of Guizhou, Chinese Human Rights Defenders said in a statement.

Activists believe the charge was related to essays he had written on advancing political reform and improving human rights in China.

An official at the court in the provincial capital Guiyang confirmed Chen had been sentenced to 10 years for "subversion of state power".

The 57-year-old's trial comes after authorities launched a crackdown on dissent earlier this year following anonymous Internet calls for protests in China sparked by the political upheaval in the Arab world.

On Friday, fellow veteran democracy activist Chen Wei, who is not believed to be related to Chen Xi, was sentenced to nine years for subversion in the southwestern province of Sichuan.

Chen Xi's family was informed of the trial on Saturday and told that three family members would be allowed to attend, the rights group said.

The activist, who is a leading member of the Guizhou Human Rights Research and Discussion Association, was taken into police custody on November 29, when police ransacked his home, confiscating his computer, the rights group said.

The charge of subversion is often used to put away government critics -- Nobel Peace Prize winner Liu Xiaobo was convicted on the same charge in 2009 and sentenced to 11 years in prison.

The plight of human rights activists in China has come under the spotlight since Liu was awarded the prestigious prize in 2010, with the West pressing for the release of all political prisoners.