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China sentences human rights website founder to five years in prison

China sentences human rights website founder to five years in prison

A Chinese court sentenced the founder of a human rights news website to five years in prison on Tuesday for "inciting subversion of state power. In a statement, the Human Rights Watch called on the authorities to quash the conviction and to free Liu Feiyue unconditionally, Efe news reported. Liu, 48, founded the Civil Rights and Livelihood Watch website in 2006.

The portal reported on human rights issues in China including demonstrations, the prosecution of activists and lawyers, abuses by the police and corruption in the government. He was arrested at the end of 2016 at his home in Suizhou in Hubei province. In addition to the articles which he posted on his website, Liu also produced annual reports on human rights violations in China from 2014 until he was arrested.

"Prosecuting the editor of a human rights website shows just how frightened the Chinese government is about independent reporting on abuses from inside China," said Wang Yaqiu, China researcher at Human Rights Watch. HRW also said that Liu's trial was marred by the denial of his right to legal counsel and other violations of due process. The Hunan Bureau of Justice eventually withdrew the license of one of Liu's lawyers, Weng Donghai.

In March 2018, Reporters Without Borders released a statement in which it said it feared for the lives of a dozen journalists and bloggers imprisoned in China, including Liu. Liu's arrest comes a day after the Tianjin No 2 Intermediate People's Court on Monday sentenced human rights lawyer Wang Quanzhang to four years in prison also for subversion of state power.

Wang was arrested in August 2015 during a government crackdown against law firms specialising in human rights cases, which led to the arrests of around 250 lawyers and activists. He has defended groups persecuted by Chinese authorities, ranging from members of the spiritual group Falun Gong (banned in China since 1999), to dissidents and activists.

(With inputs from agencies.)

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