World

China sentences veteran rights activist to 13 years in prison

China has sentenced Qin Yongmin (in left photo), a veteran pro-democracy campaigner, to 13 years in prison on vaguely defined subversion charges, one day after releasing the widow of a Nobel Peace Prize laureate.
Kin Cheun/Associated Press/File
China has sentenced Qin Yongmin (on poster, left), a veteran pro-democracy campaigner, to 13 years in prison on vaguely defined subversion charges, one day after releasing the widow of a Nobel Peace Prize laureate.

BEIJING — China on Wednesday sentenced a veteran pro-democracy campaigner to 13 years in prison on vaguely defined subversion charges, one day after releasing the widow of a Nobel Peace Prize laureate after eight years of house arrest.

The People’s Intermediate Court in the central city of Wuhan announced the sentencing of Qin Yongmin, whose activism dates back four decades, on its official website Wednesday. No further details were given and it was not immediately clear who was representing Qin in court.

On Tuesday, authorities allowed Liu Xia, wife of the late Nobel Prize winner Liu Xiaobo, to depart for Germany in response to what the Chinese Foreign Ministry called her own request to receive medical treatment. Liu had been held under house arrest since late 2010.

Advertisement

Coming during a visit by China’s Premier Li Keqiang to Germany, Liu’s release heartened foreign governments and human rights campaigners, who pointed out that she had never been charged with or convicted of any crime.

Get Today's Headlines in your inbox:
The day's top stories delivered every morning.
Thank you for signing up! Sign up for more newsletters here

Qin’s sentencing underscores China’s hard line against anyone challenging the ruling Communist Party, which under leader Xi Jinping has launched the most sweeping crackdown on civil rights in years.

Having already spent more than two decades in detention, Qin was arrested most recently in 2015 but not tried until May this year. The 64-year-old became active in the pro-democracy movement in the late 1970s during a time of political opening, and was arrested for the first time in 1981 in the ensuing Communist Party crackdown on dissent, according to the group Chinese Human Rights Defenders.

Reached by phone, Qin’s former lawyer, Ma Lianshun, called the ruling ‘‘completely illegal’’ and a violation of the constitution’s guarantee of the right to free speech.

Qin’s sentence also comes just a day after the EU and China concluded a human rights dialogue. In a statement sent Wednesday, the EU said that during the two-day talks, it emphasized the ‘‘deteriorating situation of civil and political rights in China, which has been accompanied by the detention and conviction of a significant number of Chinese human rights defenders.’’