A Chinese dissident who served 18 months in jail for joining a banned political party has been convicted again of subversion and sentenced to four years in jail, a human rights group said Wednesday.
Hong Kong-based China Human Rights Defenders said the details of Xue Mingkai's latest case were unclear but he was formally jailed March 12 in his home province of Shandong in central China, although he had already been in police custody for more than a year.
Human rights activists have criticized the government's use of vague subversion laws to jail critics. Authorities began using subversion laws against activists after repealing a widely criticized law on counterrevolutionary activities.
Communist leaders launched a sweeping effort to crush dissent last year in response to anonymous online calls for Chinese to imitate protests that toppled governments in North Africa and the Middle East. Xue's latest arrest is seen as part of that crackdown.
Xue previously served 18 months in jail on charges of subversion of state power for joining the U.S.-based China Democracy Party.
He spent less than four months out of detention before being picked up again on Feb. 26, 2011, China Human Rights Defenders said in a statement.
The group cited a Hangzhou activist, Lou Baosheng, as saying the latest conviction appeared to be linked to an open letter he and Xue wrote urging Chinese people to stand up for democracy. It didn't say when the letter was distributed.
Xue was just 19 years old and working in a factory in south China's Shenzhen when he was first detained in May 2009, a month after he joined the overseas democracy party. He was convicted in February 2010.
China allows a small number of officially recognized parties, although they serve as advisers to, rather than competitors with, the ruling Communist Party.
Founded by dissidents in 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.
After the crackdown, some of the founding members fled to the United States.