A veteran Chinese activist has been charged with subversion, a human rights group said Saturday, after another dissident was jailed for nine years in a crackdown aimed at preventing Arab Spring-style democratic uprisings.
Chen Xi was arrested Nov. 29 and charged Friday in the southern province of Guizhou, the Information Center for Human Rights and Democracy said. The Hong Kong-based center said Chen, who left prison in 2005 after serving a 10-year sentence, was accused of writing 30 essays that incited subversion.
A man who answered the phone at the Guiyang Intermediate People's Court said he had no information about the case.
On Friday, activist Chen Wei was sentenced to nine years, also on subversion charges.
Communist leaders launched a sweeping effort to crush dissent early this year in response to anonymous online calls urging Chinese to imitate protests that toppled governments in North Africa and the Middle East.
Human rights activists have criticized the ruling party's use of vague subversion laws to jail its critics. Authorities began using the subversion law against activists after repealing a widely criticized law on counterrevolutionary activities.
Chen Xi, 57, was active in the 1989 Tiananmen Square pro-democracy protests and was sentenced to three years in prison, the Information Center said in a statement. It said he was jailed for 10 years in 1995 on charges of counterrevolutionary offenses.
After his release, Chen was the first activist to sign the Charter 08 manifesto calling for an end to one-party rule and advocating democratic reforms, according to the Information Center.
The charter's co-author, Liu Xiaobo, who also is imprisoned on subversion charges, was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize last year for his pro-democracy activism.
Also this week, a government conference on politics and law called for a struggle against "hostile forces at home and abroad" and "illegal religious activities" next year, according to the Information Center, which is run by a mainland activist who lives in Hong Kong.
"Human rights conditions will continue to worsen next year," the Information Center said.
China's communist leadership was spooked early this year when online messages called for a Chinese "Jasmine Revolution," the name of the uprising in Tunisia.
Even though few outright demonstrators responded to the protest calls, China launched one of its broadest campaigns of repression in years, rounding up dozens of bloggers, lawyers and intellectuals. Most have since been released.
Others rounded up include Beijing activist Wang Lihong, who was sentenced to nine months in jail in September for staging a protest on behalf of other activists, and Yang Qiuyu, a Beijing activist who was sentenced to two years of re-education through labor.
Chen Wei's sentence appears to be the heaviest meted out in the crackdown, said Wang Songlian, a researcher with Chinese Human Rights Defenders, a Hong Kong-based advocacy group.
On Saturday, the European Union ambassador to Beijing, Markus Ederer, expressed concern about the sentence.
"The delegation of the European Union to China is deeply concerned by news of the disproportionate sentence handed down to democracy activist Chen Wei," Ederer said. "The EU firmly upholds freedom of expression as a universal human right and we encourage political debate rather than the use of criminal law as a means to resolve diverging political opinions."
Chen Wei, 42, previously served time for participating in the 1989 protests and was sentenced to five years in 1994 for "counterrevolutionary propaganda and incitement."
Amnesty International called for Chen Wei's release, saying his sentence was "clearly retaliation" for his criticism of the Communist Party.
Associated Press writer Gillian Wong contributed.