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Page last updated at 10:39 GMT, Wednesday, 2 September 2009 11:39 UK

China dissident given jail term

By Michael Bristow
BBC News, Beijing

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A Chinese dissident active in the underground China Democracy Party has been sentenced to 13 years in prison for subversion.

Xie Changfa was arrested after trying to organise the party's first national congress in the city of Changsha, Hunan Province.

The 57-year-old's lawyer, Ma Gangquan, said his client intended to appeal against the verdict.

The China Democracy Party was set up in 1998, but has never been approved.

"This is one of the most severe sentences of a dissident in several years," said a statement from the group Human Rights in China.

Re-education camp

According to court documents, Chinese prosecutors accused Xie of plotting to overthrow China's socialist system and subvert state power.

The dissident, who denied the charges, was detained in June last year after trying to set up the political party meeting.

He was tried in April at the Changsha Intermediate People's Court and sentenced on Tuesday.

According to Human Rights in China, Xie's brother and six friends were in court during the 30-minute sentencing.

"The charge runs counter to the constitution because that gives citizens the right to establish a political party," Xie's lawyer told the BBC.

Xie previously served two years in a re-education through labour camp for inciting the spread of anti-revolutionary propaganda.

The dissident has been active with the China Democracy Party for more than a decade. He helped set up a branch of the party in Hunan.

Chinese prosecutors said he was dissatisfied with China's socialist system and the communist party, and wanted to bring about a multi-party democracy.

As well as the communist grouping, China has eight other political parties, although these do not seek power for themselves.

They are supposed to advise the Chinese leadership, which uses their existence to claim that China is a democratic country.

Founders of the China Democracy Party attempted to set up a genuinely independent party during a period when the authorities were more relaxed about political debate.

But the government never allowed the party to be registered and some of its founding members were arrested, charged and imprisoned.



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