Beijing --The Chinese authorities have charged another veteran human rights activist with attempting to subvert the state, the latest in a series of indictments or trials of well-known dissidents that have drawn unusually stiff prison sentences and widespread condemnation abroad.
In the latest case, Zhu Yufu, 58, a writer and democracy advocate, was charged with subversion in Hangzhou for writing a poem in which he urged citizens to gather to defend their freedoms.
Contacted by telephone Tuesday, Zhu's lawyer, Li Dunyong, said that a date for Zhu's trial had not been set. Reuters quoted Li as saying his client was in good condition.
He said Zhu had written the poem early last year, as a series of uprisings in the Middle East led a small number of activists outside China to issue an Internet call for a "Jasmine Revolution." The Chinese authorities have responded by dramatically intensifying a crackdown on rights activists that dated from December 2008, when writer and intellectual Liu Xiaobo was detained after helping write the Charter 08 democracy manifesto.
Liu was convicted of subversion in December 2009, and in 2010, while serving an 11-year prison sentence, he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. In March, a court in Sichuan province sentenced another activist, Liu Xianbin, to 10 years in prison on subversion charges, and another prominent rights activist in Sichuan, Chen Wei, drew a nine-year subversion sentence in December. On Dec. 26, a Guizhou province court sentenced, Chen Xi, to 10 years for subversion.
Human rights experts say most of the sentences exceed those imposed for similar crimes in years past. In part, that may reflect the fact that those convicted have previous prison records for rights activism, many stretching back to their involvement in the Tiananmen Square student protests in 1989.
Zhu spent seven years in prison for subversion after being convicted in 1999 for helping to found an opposition political group, the China Democracy Party, during former President Bill Clinton's June 1998 state visit to China.
In 2007, a year after being released, he was again detained and later sentenced to more than two years in prison after pushing a police officer while being arrested.
The poem at the heart of the indictment, "It's Time," appears to have drawn the authorities' attention for its timing around the Jasmine Revolution controversy. By one translation, it states, in part,
It's time, Chinese people!
The square is ours,
The feet are ours,
It's time to use our feet to go to
the square and make a choice.