China activist Liu Xianbin jailed for 10 years

A human rights group protest outside the China Liaison office in Hong Kong in August 2010 asking for the release of Chinese dissident Liu Xianbin (pictured on placard)
Image caption Liu Xianbin was previously jailed for taking part in the nationwide protests of 1989

A Chinese democracy activist has been sentenced to 10 years in prison for inciting subversion of state power.

Liu Xianbin was charged after writing a series of articles calling for democratic reforms.

He was convicted after a trial lasting only a few hours; the third time he has been sent to jail for his activism.

Dozens of lawyers and activists have been arrested or detained in China recently following calls for Middle East-style protests.

'Not guilty'

Liu Xianbin's trial, in Suining in Sichuan Province, lasted just a few hours, according to his wife, who attended the hearing.

Chen Mingxian told the BBC that her husband shouted, "I'm not guilty" in the courtroom.

Speaking after the verdict, she said the charges against her husband were trumped up.

"Today I saw how legal tools were used to convict someone who is not guilty," she said.

Liu Xianbin was previously sent to prison for two-and-a-half years for taking part in the nationwide protests of 1989.

When he was released, he continued his campaigning.

In 1998 he helped found the Sichuan branch of the China Democracy Party, an underground group that the authorities never allowed to develop.

The following year he was sent to prison for 13 years for the subversion of state power.

The activist was released in 2008 and again threw himself into campaign work, supporting Charter 08, the political manifesto partly drafted by last year's Nobel Peace Prize winner Liu Xiaobo.

He also wrote articles critical of China's one-party political system.

Essays, such as one entitled Constitutional Democracy for China: Escaping Eastern Autocracy, will not have endeared him to the Chinese authorities.

The government in Beijing has appeared nervous since the wave of protests began in the Middle East and North Africa.

Many activists and lawyers here have been detained, held under house arrest or harassed by the security forces.

Human rights organisations say this contravenes not just international treaties, but also China's own constitution.

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