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BEIJING: A prominent Chinese political campaigner was sentenced to 13 years in jail on Wednesday, a court in central China said. Qin Yongmin was found “guilty of subversion of state power”, the Wuhan City Intermediate People’s Court said on its official website.

According to court records, it appears to be the heftiest sentence handed down in China for “subversion” in the past 15 years. The 64-year-old, first jailed as a “counter-revolutionary” from 1981-1989, has already spent a total of 22 years behind bars.

At the time of his arrest in January 2015, Qin was head of the pro-democracy “China Human Rights Watch” group, which circulated online statements denouncing government policies, as well as organised discussion groups.

Qin had “refused to cooperate with the court” and remained completely silent during his trial in May, lawyer Lin Qilei previously said. His other lawyer, Liu Zhengqing, told AFP he was in “despair” about the sentencing and “angry at the rogue regime” in China.“[We] will definitely appeal,” he announced.

The verdict comes a day after Liu Xia, the widow of Chinese Nobel dissident Liu Xiaobo, was allowed to leave China for Germany. Despite facing no charges, the 57-year-old poet had endured heavy restrictions on her movements since 2010 when her husband won the Nobel Peace Prize — an award that infuriated Beijing. Liu Xiaobo, a veteran of the 1989 Tiananmen Square protests, died last year while serving an 11-year jail sentence, also for “subversion”.

“It’s appalling to see such a heavy sentence imposed on a veteran activist who just exercised his freedom of expression just a day after we see some hope in Liu Xia’s case,” said Amnesty International China researcher Patrick Poon. “It reminds us that we shouldn’t forget the less famous activists who face harsh sentence and harassment,” Poon added.

Published in Dawn, July 12th, 2018

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