SHANGHAI—A former university professor who published letters to Chinese leaders and advocated multi-party democracy has been jailed for 10 years for 'subversion of state power', a rights group said on Saturday.
The sentence was handed down on Guo Quan by a court in eastern coastal Jiangsu province at an especially sensitive time–after China celebrates 60 years of Communist rule this month, 20 years after troops crushed pro-democracy protests in Bejing.
The court action also precedes U.S. President Barack Obama's visit to China next month, when Beijing's human rights record will be under the spotlight. Another dissident, Liu Xiaobo, a prominent pro-democracy writer and rights activist, also remains in detention, facing charges.
"This sentence is indefensible from a legal perspective, because using peaceful and rational means to petition cannot be considered subversion of state power," Guo's lawyer was quoted as saying in a statement by Human Rights in China.
"Guo Quan's actions were in complete compliance with the constitutional guarantee of freedom of speech. 'Subversion of state power' can only be achieved by armed insurrection."
Human Rights in China said the sentence was pronounced on Friday. The Intermediate People's Court in the town of Suqian could not be immediately reached for comment.
The rights group said Guo, a former associate professor at Nanjing Normal University, was detained in November 2008 after publishing articles, including letters on the Internet, addressed to Chinese leader Hu Jintao and others.
It said he founded the New Democracy Party of China and advocated a multi-party, competitively-elected democractic system, while addressing social problems and concerns of laid-off workers and peasants who had lost their land.
Human Rights in China is a non-governmental organisation based in New York, Hong Kong and Brussels.