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Last Updated: Friday, 17 March 2006, 09:52 GMT
China jails teacher for net essay

Internet cafe in Beijing. File photo
China's authorities are intolerant of online dissent
A Chinese teacher has been jailed for 10 years for an internet essay claiming people had a right to end tyranny by violent means, a rights group said.

Ren Zhiyuan's trial, for his essay the Road to Democracy, highlighted China's mounting crackdown on dissent.

It came as subversion charges against a Chinese researcher for the New York Times, Zhao Yan, were dropped.

Analysts said the case threatened to tarnish an upcoming visit to the US by China's President Hu Jintao.

Ren Zhiyuan, 27, pleaded not guilty to charges of "subversion of state power".

His lawyer, Zhang Chengmao, said his client would appeal the sentence.

"I do know that whatever Ren Zhiyuan wrote was totally within the scope of free expression," Zhang told Reuters news agency. "He was a teacher who had his own ideas, but he never acted on those ideas."

Ren had posted an essay called "The Road to Democracy" which argued that people had the right to violently overthrow tyranny, according to the New York-based Human Rights in China.

His sentencing appeared to contradict comments by government official Liu Zhengrong last month, who said that no one had been arrested just for writing online content.

Prosecutors also accused Ren of trying to set up an organisation called Mainland Democracy Frontline.

US visit

Zhao Yan (photo courtesy New York Times)
Zhao Yan could be released in the next few days

Zhao Yan's lawyer, Mo Shaoping, said he expected his client to be released in the next few days.

Zhao was arrested in September 2004, and was facing charges of leaking state secrets and fraud.

He faced 10 years in jail after security officials alleged he told his employer, The New York Times, details of a rivalry between retired Communist Party leader, Jiang Zemin, and his successor, Mr Hu.

China has been cracking down increasingly hard on dissent in the last few months.

But it often releases high-profile dissidents ahead of high-level meetings between Beijing and Washington.

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