On Monday veteran activist Chen Xi was sentenced to 10 years on prison on charges of subversion, just days after fellow activist Chen Wei was sentenced to nine years on similar charges. From the Washington Post:
A court in the southern city of Guiyang found Chen Xi guilty of the charge of “incitement to subvert state power” for 36 essays he wrote and posted online, his wife said by phone.
The United Nations Human Rights office said it was alarmed by the sentence handed down to Chen and other similarly harsh sentences given to other Chinese dissidents in recent days.
Chen maintained his innocence but will not appeal the verdict, said his wife, Zhang Qunxuan.
“This is utterly absurd,” Zhang said. “Chen Xi told the court it did not take into consideration the things he has written as a whole, and has interpreted his words out of context. But they have power and they don’t listen.”
The Time blog has more on Zhang’s reaction to her husband’s sentence:
Chen’s wife, Zhang Qunxuan, told Reuters he was convicted over the content of 36 essays that he had published on overseas websites that were critical of China’s ruling Communist Party. “To subvert you – can he do that?” Zhang said, according to Reuters. “Does he have any army? Does he have a police force? Does he have courts? With a piece of paper and a pen, can he subvert you? Are you so fragile?”
China’s Communist rulers do not feel compelled to account for their actions, so the motivation for the crackdown is a subject of speculation. Most China-watchers believe the authorities have been spooked by the popular uprisings in the Middle East. They may also be more nervous than usual as they prepare for an equally opaque leadership change next year. A top security official reportedly said that crackdowns on “hostile forces”(government code for peaceful advocates of democracy) and “illegal religious organizations” (code for Christians, Falun Gong followers and others who choose to worship without government approval) will be a priority in the coming year.
The human rights crackdown has drawn relatively little attention or condemnation from the West. Perhaps this is because the allure of Chinese investment and the Chinese market is too strong. Perhaps the crackdown seems so out of keeping with popular images of bustling, modern, capitalist Shanghai that outsiders have a hard time believing it is going on.