HONG KONG—Authorities in Beijing have sentenced AIDS activist Hu Jia to 3-1/2 years' in jail for "incitement to subversion" after he wrote articles online critical of China's hosting of the Olympics, his lawyer and family said.
The sentence was handed down Thursday by the Beijing No.1 Intermediate People's Court.
"We cannot accept this verdict, because the peaceful words Hu expressed are irrelevant to state power," Hu's lawyer, Li Fangping, told RFA's Mandarin service after the trial. "Therefore, the 3-1/2-year prison sentence is inappropriate."
Hu's wife, blogger and fellow activist Zeng Jinyan, was allowed to attend the hearing where the sentence was handed down. She rejected the court case against her husband.
"They can use every tactic in the book to shut me up, but they can't change the way I feel about this," Zeng, who has been under house arrest with the couple's four-month-old baby daughter since Hu 's arrest Dec. 27, told Cantonese service reporter Grace Kei Lai-see.
"Hu Jia is as proud as everyone else that China will host the next Olympic Games. But he doesn't want your average poor Chinese nobody to suffer more on account of the Olympics," she said.
They can use every tactic in the book to shut me up, but they can't change the way I feel about this.
Hu, a well-known AIDS activist who also suffers from Hepatitis B, was detained Dec. 27 after spending months under virtual house arrest because of his civil rights lobbying on behalf of disenfranchised people affected by the Olympics.
Hu's arrest came after he published a number of articles online calling for human rights, in a campaign that was linked to Beijing's hosting of the Olympics this summer.
Zeng, an AIDS activist and blogger who won an award from Paris-based Reporters Without Borders alongside Hu Jia last year, has updated her blog sporadically from house arrest, despite a clampdown by national security police on her telephone and Internet access.
She and daughter Hu Qianci have been the focus of a goodwill campaign by other Chinese bloggers and netizens, who have coordinated attempts online to get baby formula delivered to the couple's apartment in Bobo Freedom City in Beijing.
Hu's mother described her son as a sacrificial lamb on the altar of Chinese politics.
"I feel really wronged," she told Mandarin reporter Ding Xiao. "In fact what Hu Jia did is good for society. After the trial, the judge asked family members to voice our opinions of the sentencing. I told him if you let people speak freely, the sky won’t fall."
Hu appeared strained and worried in the dock during the hearing, and he wasn't allowed to speak.
"They didn’t let him to say anything, not like last time," his mother said. "I felt he was under great pressure. When he was led into court, he didn’t see us. After the trial, he didn’t look at us either," she said.
Around 200 people congregated outside the court buildings to support Hu.
"Many passersby asked what happened in this courtroom," a supporter called Zhou Li said.
"Petitioners on the scene then told them that a good man who helps the government and supports China is on trial. The sentencing is very disappointing. The Chinese government has made another mistake."
The court barred media reporters from interviewing Hu’s family. After the trial, his lawyer met briefly with Hu.
Li Fangping said Hu felt there wouldn't be much point in appealing but there was some hope that his sentence might be shortened for health reasons.
"If we appeal, there is some hope that the Supreme Court might change the verdict," Li said. "We are very worried about his health. His hepatitis might deteriorate."
"Perhaps the jail sentence will even shorten his life," he said.
Original reporting in Mandarin by Ding Xiao and in Cantonese by Grace Kei Lai-see. Mandarin service director: Jennifer Chou. Cantonese service director: Shiny Li. Translated by Chen Ping and Luisetta Mudie. Written for the Web in English by Luisetta Mudie. Edited by Sarah Jackson-Han.