The Chinese authorities should immediately release a poet activist imprisoned for “inciting subversion of state power”, Amnesty International said today after a court in eastern China sentenced him to seven years in jail for writing a poem urging people to support freedom.
The court ruled that Zhu Yufu’s poem It’s Time, sent using the Skype online chat service, deserved stern punishment, according to his son.
“Sentencing veteran activist Zhu Yufu to seven years for writing a poem is further evidence of the Chinese government’s continuing repression of anyone who is perceived to directly or indirectly criticize its policies,” said Sarah Schafer, Amnesty International’s China researcher.
"These harsh measures are a sign that the Chinese leadership must be afraid of losing its grip on power. Why else would it sentence someone to seven years in prison for writing a poem?"
One verse of the poem in question reads,“It's time, Chinese people!/The square belongs to everyone/the feet are yours/ it’s time to use your feet and take to the square to make a choice."
The sentencing of Zhu Yufu comes as Xi Jinping, who is expected to succeed Hu Jintao as China’s Communist Party leader, is set to visit the White House for talks next week, where he is likely to face criticism over human rights violations in China.
The sentencing of Mr Zhu, 59, follows the imprisonment of two other prominent activists in December, Chen Wei from Sichuan and Chen Xi from Guizhou, on the same charge of "inciting subversion."
The Chinese authorities often use this vaguely defined charge to silence perceived critics.
Mr Zhu, who was involved in the 1979 Democracy Wall pro-reform movement, has been jailed twice for his activism in the past. He has spent a total of nine years in prison.
“The Chinese government has seen the uprisings in the Middle East and North Africa. And it has seen the Chinese people themselves grow stronger in their demands for more freedoms and a say over their country's future,” said Sarah Schafer.