Associated Press
April 3, 2008

BEIJING (AP) — Confined to house arrest for seven months, Chinese activist Hu Jia still managed to use the Internet and telephone to chronicle the harassment of dissidents in his country before he was hauled off to jail last December.

His conviction and sentencing on subversion charges Thursday is the latest indication that China’s leadership intends to clamp down hard on dissent ahead of this summer’s Olympic Games in Beijing.

Hu, one of China’s most prominent human rights advocates, was given 3 1/2 years in prison for “inciting state subversion,” said his lawyer, Li Fangping. The evidence against Hu included five Internet articles he wrote and two interviews he gave to foreign media, Li said.

The sentence, though lighter than the five years expected, “is still unacceptable,” Li said. Beijing routinely uses the charge of subversion to imprison dissidents for years.

A longtime critic of the government, Hu has been involved in civil liberties issues, from AIDS awareness to environmental rights and Tibet. In recent years, while largely under house arrest, he served as a hub linking activists across China with the outside world.

Last fall, Hu and activist lawyer Teng Biao authored an article accusing Beijing of failing to live up to a pledge made when bidding for the Olympics that it would improve human rights.

Hu’s case drew more scrutiny for the human rights record of China’s government, which has been facing criticism over its crackdown following widespread protests in Tibet and other parts of western China.

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