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China court sentences writer/activist to 2 1/2 years on impersonation and fraud charges

[JURIST] Human rights group Chinese Human Rights Defenders (CHRD) [advocacy website] on Tuesday reported that Chinese activist and blogger Chen Qitang was sentenced last month to two-and-a-half years in prison [press release] for impersonation and fraud. According to the group, Chen's wife Zhang Yueqing learned of his sentence when she called the Foshan Court in Guangdong Province in order to get information on her husband's situation. She was informed that he had already been tried and sentenced, apparently without a lawyer. CHRD claims that Chen's arrest and conviction are in violation of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) [text] and thus unlawful. The government initially refused to comment but promised to release additional information [Sydney Morning Herald report] within the next two days. 

Chen was initially detained in October 2007 and was formally arrested in December of that year. His detention occurred shortly after he made disparaging remarks about the Chinese government on his blog [text, in Mandarin], while he was helping villagers in Sanshan Village, Nanhai District, Foshan City, Guangdong Province draft legal documents appealing the confiscation of their land by the local government. The Chinese government has detained and convicted other activists [JURIST news archive]. China recently released activist Hu Shigen [PEN profile] after he served 16 years of a 20 year sentence. Last April China denied the appeal [JURIST report] of Hu Jia [advocacy blog; JURIST news archive], despite allegations of torture, and imprisoned his supporter Teng Biao for two days without charge. 

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