Authorities in the eastern Chinese province of Jiangxi on Friday handed a one year and 10 month jail term to an outspoken author and Internet commentator on charges of "running an illegal business," his lawyer said.
Fu Zhibin, 51, was handed the sentence by the Qingshanhu District People's Court in the provincial capital Nanchang after he published a book about brainwashing that was highly critical of the ruling Chinese Communist Party.
Fu's charge sheet accused him of publishing A History of Brainwashing in Taiwan, and then selling more than 1,000 copies on mainland China's auction site Taobao, with sales worth more than 90,000 yuan.
His defense lawyer Zhang Zanning said he had pleaded "not guilty" to the charges.
"I think that this decision was an unjust one, and that Fu Zhibin is innocent of any crime," Zhang told RFA after the sentencing hearing on Friday.
"The judge read out the verdict and sentence, and asked if the defendant had anything to say," he said. "Fu Zhibin said that he will be lodging an appeal."
"He was in pretty good spirits."
Fu was also fined 150,000 yuan (U.S.$23,505). His assistant Wu Wei was jailed for one year and five months and fined 90,000 yuan.
Print worker Zhao Zhenhuo was handed a jail term of one year and three months and a 90,000 yuan fine, while his colleague Wu Xinbin was jailed for six months and fined 80,000 yuan.
Defense attorney Liu Zhiqiang said he was unsurprised by the sentence.
"I had expected it, certainly, that they would get a prison sentence," Liu said.
"Actually we were expecting a jail term upwards of three years [for Fu], so this isn't as harsh as we thought, not if you believe they are guilty."
A case file from the Jianxi provincial state security police accused Fu of "distorting and smearing Communist Party history" and "denying the legitimacy of Chinese Communist Party rule," Zhang said.
Fu's description of the Chinese Communist Party as having seized power with backing from the Soviet Union, and as having brainwashed and controlled the thoughts of Chinese citizens through "red terror" was a "slander," the case file said.
Fu was also described as having smeared the names of the first generation of Communist Party leaders, including late supreme leader Mao Zedong, and his book had had a "highly pernicious influence," it said.
The case had been earmarked by state security police as a "political case to be handled through nonpolitical means," according to Zhang.
Nanjing-based freelance journalist Sun Lin said Fu's book gave an accurate depiction of brainwashing techniques used by the Communist Party to control people's thinking.
He said the sentence came ironically on China's Constitution Day.
"Clause 35 of the constitution says that citizens enjoy freedom of expression, publication, and association," Sun said. "But actually the [party] won't allow anyone to speak out, and forbids them from publishing."
"What's more, they didn't charge him with illegal publication, but with illegal business activities," he said. "That means they charged his assistant and the printer as well."
"I think this is a great shame, because this book also spoke out against brainwashing in religion, but nobody religious has criticized him or detained him."
According to his friends, Fu had been detained for more than a year before the case was brought to trial, and was mistreated during his incarceration at the Nanchang No. 1 Detention Center.
Fu was initially detained on Sept. 9, 2014 by Qingshanhu district police, and was indicted by the local state prosecution office in December 2014.
According to the Weiquanwang rights website, Fu is an online author and independent documentary filmmaker who has made films about Tibetan Buddhism.
He has also posted outspoken comments on Chinese social media sites slamming Beijing's repressive policies in the northwestern region of Xinjiang in the wake of a string of violent incidents involving the mostly Muslim Uyghur ethnic group.
Reported by Yang Fan for RFA's Mandarin Service, and by Hai Nan for the Cantonese Service. Translated and written in English by Luisetta Mudie.