- guardian.co.uk, Wednesday 2 September 2009 16.06 BST
A Chinese dissident is to serve 13 years in prison for subverting state power after he tried to arrange a national meeting of the banned China Democracy party, his lawyer said today.
Xie Changfa, a former factory worker from southern China, had previously served three years in a labour camp for speeches denouncing the military crackdown on pro-democracy protests in 1989.
He was detained in June last year, stood trial in April in Changsha, Hunan province, and received his sentence yesterday. His lawyer, Ma Gangguan, told the Associated Press that the 57-year-old planned to appeal.
"The charges and judgment both say his crime relates to work he did to establish the party's Hunan chapter and to his efforts to organise a national party meeting, but we have maintained all along that such activities are not crimes but in fact are the constitutional rights of all Chinese citizens," said Ma.
China allows a small number of officially recognised alternative parties, but they serve as advisers rather than competitors to the ruling Communist party.
The China Democracy party was founded by dissidents in 1998 but quashed six months later. Dozens of founding members – many of whom had a history of democratic activism – were arrested and sentenced to up to 13 years, mostly on subversion charges. Most have been freed, but Qin Yongmin, sentenced to 12 years in Wuhan in 1998, is not due for release until December next year.
A spokesman for the Changsha court was not available to comment.
The US-based group Human Rights in China said the court also ordered that Xie be deprived of political rights for five years after his release. Xie's brother Xie Changzhen told the group that the dissident was handcuffed for 30 minutes during the announcement of the decision, and did not have the opportunity to speak.
In a statement, HRIC said: "This is yet another case of the Chinese authorities trampling on rights protected under the Chinese constitution. HRIC urges relevant authorities to carefully review this case and take corrective action."
The group said the court found Xie guilty of "illegally setting up a party in the long term", "soliciting and inciting others to attack, denigrate, and overturn state power and the socialist system", "incitement" and the "subversion of state power", the latter of which carries a heavier sentence.
Joshua Rosenzweig, of the Dui Hua foundation, which works on behalf of political prisoners in China, said that while people could receive sentence reductions, it was more difficult for political prisoners because "good behaviour" in part involved acknowledging guilt and the validity of the court's verdict.
"If yours is a crime of conscience, then you are going to be that much less likely to admit that what you did was wrong," he said.
Xu Wanping, another CDP member, was sentenced to 12 years in Chongqing in December 2005. He is due for release in April 2016 after a one-year reduction was granted.