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Critics say activist's sentence part of China's pre-Olympics crackdown

Hu Jia, known internationally for his criticism of China's ruling Communist Party, was given a 3-1/2 year jail sentence Thursday.

Jailed: Zeng Jinyan (l.), wife of activist Hu Jia, walked next to Mr. Hu’s mother after he was sentenced Thursday in Beijing.

Greg Baker

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Hu Jia, one of China's most vocal dissidents, was sentenced to 3-1/2 years in jail Thursday on charges of "inciting subversion of state power," bolstering what international human rights groups say is a pattern of increased repression ahead the Olympic Games.

"It's another step … in a major crackdown against those involved in almost any kind of activity that falls outside the accepted parameters," says Curt Goering, deputy executive director of the United States branch of Amnesty International.

Mr. Hu, who endured more than 200 days of house arrest before his detention last December, was convicted on the strength of articles he published on his website; interviews he gave to foreign media; and testimony, via Web-cam, he gave to a European Parliament hearing last November on human rights in China.

The court found that he had spread "malicious rumors and committed libel," the official news agency Xinhua reported.

Hu was unlikely to appeal, according to his lawyers, who said he had acknowledged "excesses" in his criticism of the authorities. He appears to have crossed the line with an essay he co-wrote last September with another prominent human rights activist, lawyer Teng Biao, in which they argued that "if there is no human dignity or human rights, then there can be no real Olympics."

Mr. Teng was abducted last month for 48 hours by men who claimed to be policemen but showed no identification. He was released after an international outcry.

"Those who have linked China's human rights responsibilities to its hosting of the Olympics have been among the most harshly treated," Amnesty International charged in a report this week. "It is increasingly clear that much of the current wave of repression is occurring not in spite of the Olympics but because of the Olympics."

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