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China: UN deeply concerned by conviction of human rights activist

High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay
High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay

China: UN deeply concerned by conviction of human rights activist

The United Nations human rights chief voiced today her deep concern about the verdict and extremely harsh sentencing in the trial of leading activist Chen Wei, adding that it represents a serious setback for the protection and promotion of human rights in China.

The verdict comes just one week after Chinese lawyer Gao Zhisheng was sentenced to three year's in prison just before the end of his suspended sentence.

“The conviction and extremely harsh sentencing of Chen Wei indicates a further tightening of the severe restrictions on the scope of freedom of expression in China that has been seen over the last two years,” said UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay, adding that this verdict, along with that of Mr. Gao, are the latest examples of an escalating clamp-down on the activities of human rights defenders in China.

“I call upon Chinese authorities to release any person detained for peacefully exercising his or her right to freedom of expression,” Ms. Pillay said.

Mr. Chen was sentenced to nine years of prison for inciting subversion against the State because of his writings on various overseas websites for the defense of human rights.

Mr. Chen, who was one of the student leaders in the 1989 Democracy Movement, has already spent more than five years in prison as a result of his peaceful activities as a dissident.

On Friday, UN human rights experts denounced the secret detention of Mr. Gao, who was first arrested in 2006 for his advocacy work against violations of human rights in the country. He was accused of subversion against State power but this has never been proven in a court of law.

Mr. Gao has been secretly detained several times, and for the past 20 months has been detained in an unknown location.

The UN human rights experts expressed their concern about Mr. Gao's health condition and urged Chinese authorities to release him immediately.