HONG KONG—Authorities in China's southwestern province of Sichuan have convicted 10 rights activists on charges of disturbing public order, handing down jail terms of up to three years in some cases.
The sentences were handed down by the Central District People's Court in Leshan city on Tuesday, after the men staged a 2009 protest at a series of the court's decisions in recent years.
Bao Junsheng was sentenced to three years' imprisonment for "gathering a crowd to disturb social order," while fellow activists Zeng Li and Huang Xiaomin received two-and-a-half-year sentences.
Zeng Rongkang, Xing Qingxian, Yan Wenhan, and Lu Dachun each received two-year jail terms.
Liu Jiwei was released from detention, while Xu Chongli was sentenced to a one-year supervision order.
The men were first tried for “assembling a crowd to disrupt social order” on April 7. However, their case was sent back to the People's Procuratorate, the local state prosecutor, for more evidence.
Their sentencing comes more than 18 months after they were detained for chaining themselves together in a protest outside the court on Feb. 23, 2009.
A 'sensitive case'
A lawyer surnamed Qiu representing Huang Xiaomin said he was reluctant to discuss the case in detail.
"This is a rather sensitive case, OK?" he said, adding that he would be discussing with Huang whether or not to appeal the sentence.
Chengdu-based rights activist Chen Yunfei traveled to Leshan to support the activists at the trial.
"There was tight security at the scene," Chen said. "There was a patrol of 17 or 18 armed police going back and forth outside the court."
Chen said the court had allowed only three relatives of the men to attend the trial in the visitors' gallery.
"They didn't let us go in," he said. "I don't think they even informed the relatives [that the trial would take place]."
Ma Xiaopeng, a lawyer representing Xing Qingxian, denied that Xing had attended demonstrations and said that his actions had not constituted "gathering a crowd to disturb social order."
"I haven't met with him yet," Ma said. "But I expect that we will appeal."
"He never took part in any mass activity; he never carried out such actions," Ma said.
Other dissidents jailed
Also in Sichuan, veteran dissident Liu Xianbin has been in detention since June 27, on suspicion of “inciting subversion of state power" after he published several articles critical of the ruling Communist Party in overseas publications.
Liu is a veteran pro-democracy activist whose outspoken views have landed him in prison before, and his arrest has sparked an international campaign for his release.
A member of the outlawed China Democracy Party (CDP), Liu was sentenced to two-and-a-half years' imprisonment by a Beijing court in 1992 for spreading counterrevolutionary propaganda and subversion, and again in August 1998 to a 13-year jail term for "subversion of state power."
Authorities in Sichuan's Zigong city also recently indicted rights activist Liu Zhengyou for fraud.
Liu Zhengyou had been active for many years in and around Zigong city, frequently helping farmers who have lost their land to government-backed property developers to sue for fair compensation.
Original reporting in Mandarin by Qiao Long. Translated and written in English by Luisetta Mudie.