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China court sentences democracy advocate to six-year prison term

[JURIST] A Chinese court on Wednesday sentenced democracy advocate Wang Rongqing to six years in jail on charges of subverting state power. The 65-year-old activist, who has pressed for democracy since the 1970s, was tried [AP report] in Hangzhou City Intermediate People’s Court, in the eastern province of Zhejiang, on charges relating to his organization of the China Democracy Party [official website], which the Public Security Ministry [official website, in Mandarin] declared to be an "enemy organization." He was also charged for his signing of the "Charter 08" [text] democracy petition prior to the Beijing Olympics and for his work with The Opposition Party, a pro-democracy newspaper.

China's official Communist Party [official website] has been criticized by rights groups [AI report, PDF; HRIC advocacy website] for its treatment of emerging opposition parties. Several prominent counterrevolutionaries have been imprisoned, including Hu Shigen [PEN profile], who was sentenced to 20 years in prison, but released [JURIST report] in August after serving 16 years. In June 2008, the US State Department said in its annual Advancing Freedom and Democracy Reports [text] that China "continued to deny its citizens basic democratic rights, and law enforcement authorities suppressed those perceived to threaten the legitimacy or authority of the Chinese Communist Party," charges which the Chinese government called "denial of reality and utterly groundless." [official statement; JURIST report]. The UN Committee Against Torture [official website] also expressed concern [press release; JURIST report] over allegations that Chinese authorities continued the routine and widespread practice of torture and ill-treatment of suspects to extract confessions," charges which China rejected [JURIST report].

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