Chinese online critic Chen Xi was sentenced to 10 months in prison in December. (Reuters)
Chinese online critic Chen Xi was sentenced to 10 months in prison in December. (Reuters)

Online writer imprisoned in China

New York, January 9, 2012–A 10-year prison term given to online critic Chen Xi last month is the latest severe sentence targeting dissenters in China, the Committee to Protect Journalists said today.

A court in Guiyang, Guizhou province, sentenced activist Chen Xi to 10 years in prison for inciting subversion against state power on December 26, 2011, citing more than 30 articles he published online, according to international news reports. His trial came just four days after activist and writer Chen Wei was sentenced to nine years on the same charge in Sichuan province.

Chen was detained for activities unrelated to his writing, and was not included in CPJ’s 2011 prison census. Police arrested him for campaigning for independent local People’s Congress election candidates, according to the U.K. Guardian. However, the prosecution cited 36 articles Chen had written and published online in the charges against him, according to international news reports. The reports did not specify which websites published the articles. His sentence would be followed by three years deprivation of political rights, according to New York-based advocacy group, Human Rights in China.

“Chen Xi was calling for democracy and human rights. This wish was his whole crime,” Chen’s wife Zhang Qunxuan told Human Rights in China.

“The severe sentence given to Chen Xi for online writing indicates that Chinese authorities are tightening their control of dissent,” said Bob Dietz, CPJ Asia program coordinator. “Penalties against government critics appear to be growing harsher.”

The charge of inciting subversion has been frequently used to imprison online journalists, usually for terms of up to five years, CPJ research has shown. However, penalties appear to be increasing in severity since Nobel Peace Prize laureate Liu Xiaobo was sentenced on the charge for an unusual 11 years in 2009. Sichuan-based Chen Wei’s nine-year sentence was based on four online articles, international news reports said. Pro-democracy activist Liu Xianbin was handed down a 10-year sentence on the same charge in Sichuan in March 2011.

By contrast, three writers sentenced earlier on the inciting subversion charge, Hu Jia, Chen Daojun, and Du Daobin, were released in late 2010 or 2011; each served four years or less.