Rights lawyer sentenced to four years jail in China, says wife


Beijing (AFP)

A Chinese human rights lawyer detained in Beijing two years ago after calling for multi-candidate elections was sentenced to four years in prison on Wednesday, his wife told AFP.

Yu Wensheng was charged with "inciting subversion of state power" after penning an open letter calling for constitutional reforms.

"This outcome is one that I cannot accept. It's too harsh. He is an innocent man," his wife Xu Yan said.

"We don't know if we can see him in the future. There's a chance we won't be able to," she added.

China has seen a dramatic crackdown on civil liberties and religious freedoms since President Xi Jinping took power in 2012, with over 200 human rights lawyers and activists detained or questioned in 2015.

Yu's wife was previously told he was held in Xuzhou, in Jiangsu province. AFP was unable immediately to confirm the sentence with prosecutors there.

Chen Yue, director-general of the Hong Kong-based China Human Rights Lawyers Concern Group, said: "There was no verdict or notice (for the trial)... we don't know the reasons behind this."

"In this time, we have not received any news about Yu Wensheng's physical condition or what kind of treatment he has received," Chen told AFP.

Amnesty International’s Asia-Pacific regional director Nicholas Bequelin called Yu's sentencing "political persecution dressed up as legal process".

"Not only was Yu prosecuted under baseless charges for the lawful and legitimate work he was conducting as a lawyer, his own lawyer was not even permitted to attend the sentencing hearing," he said.

The group added that Yu was also previously detained in 2014 after voicing support for pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong, and "told Amnesty International he was tortured in detention".