Chinese Sentences Dissident to 13 Years Jail

A Chinese dissident who tried to organize a national meeting of the banned China Democracy Party has been sentenced to 13 years in jail for subverting state power, his lawyer said Wednesday.

Xie Changfa, 57, was tried in April and sentenced Tuesday by the Changsha Municipal Intermediate Court in southern China's Hunan province, his lawyer Ma Gangquan said in a telephone interview. He
plans to appeal, Ma said.

China allows a small number of officially recognized alternative parties, although they serve as advisers rather than competitors to the ruling Communist Party.

Founded by dissidents in mid-1998, the China Democracy Party was quashed six months later by the Communist Party. Dozens of founding
members were arrested and sentenced to up to 13 years in prison,
most on charges of subverting state power.

"The charges and judgment both say his crime relates to work he did to establish the party's Hunan chapter and to his efforts to organize a national party meeting, but we have maintained all along that such activities are not crimes but in fact are the constitutional rights of all Chinese citizens," said Ma.

A man who answered the telephone at the publicity office of the
Changsha court said the spokesman was not immediately available to
answer media queries.

Chinese authorities have stepped up efforts to curb dissent, arresting or detaining leading dissidents and harassing lawyers who defend them, in the lead-up to the 60th anniversary of the Communist Party's rule. The Oct. 1 celebration will be marked by a military parade.

Hunan police detained Xie in June last year after he discussed
hosting a national congress for the China Democracy Party with fellow party members. In August, he was formally arrested and charged with subverting state power.

Xie became active in the Hunan chapter of the party in 1998. Prior to that, he also served three years in a re-education-through-labor camp for a series of speeches denouncing the June 4, 1989, military crackdown on pro-democracy protesters.

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