Chinese dissident receives 9 years in prison

Story highlights

  • The court finds Chen guilty of inciting subversion of state power
  • He was detained by authorities in February
  • Chen is one of dozens who were detained during the Jasmine revolution earlier this year
  • The Jasmine revolution earlier this year, which was inspired by uprisings in the Middle East
Veteran rights activist Chen Wei was sentenced to nine years in prison Friday by a Chinese court in one of the harshest sentences involving a dissident this year.
A court in Suining in southwestern China's Sichuan province found the 42-year-old guilty of inciting subversion of state power.
Chen was detained in February after he published essays online that mentioned the 1989 Tiananmen protests, calling for freedom of speech, democracy and political reform.
"Everyone has opinions, but he was brave enough to express his openly and was punished for it," Wang Xiaoyan, Chen's wife, said in an interview with CNN. "I feel no sadness, just pure anger at how this all played out."
Friday was the first time Wang had seen her husband since his detention by central government security officials in February after they invited him to have tea, play poker and eat lunch, amid a government crackdown on the Jasmine protests. His family was not given a reason for his detention.
"He was always brought in for questioning after his role in the '89 protests, so I didn't think too much of it at first," said Wang. "The court and government officials decided he was guilty even before the trial started. During the trial, they wouldn't let our side speak and always interrupted our lawyer. It was a joke."
Chen has accepted the verdict and has no plans to plead not guilty because it would make no difference, Liang Xiaojun, one of his lawyers, said.
"I'm not planning to overthrow any regime," Chen said during the trial that lasted more than two hours. "I'm seeking for democracy through non-violent means."
The dissident was supposed to give a personal statement after the verdict was handed down, but the court didn't allow him to make one, Liang said.
Chen is one of dozens who were detained during the Jasmine revolution earlier this year, which was inspired by uprisings in the Middle East. Online activists urged ordinary Chinese to protest for political reform.
His sentence is one the most severe doled out by China this year.
Ai Weiwei, the most prominent figure to be detained during the Jasmine crackdown, was detained for more than two months and later found guilty of tax evasion. Last month, Ai paid 8.45 million yuan ($1.3 million) of 15 million yuan ($2.4 million) in taxes the Beijing government said he owed.
For now, Chen's wife says she just wants to talk to her husband again, but doesn't know when the next time will be.
"After more than 300 days, they wouldn't even let us talk or touch in court today," said Wang Xiaoyan. "Who knows if I'll see him again."