Chinese activist gets 9 months for protesting

September 8, 2011 - 9:25 PM

BEIJING (AP) — A Chinese court on Friday sentenced an activist to nine months in jail over a protest she held, in a prosecution that illustrates the authoritarian government's unease about vocal, Internet-empowered social campaigners.

The Chaoyang District Court issued the sentence against Wang Lihong after convicting her of the vaguely worded charge of creating a disturbance, her son Qi Jianxiang said after the 10-minute sentencing hearing at the court, which is near the airport on Beijing's rural fringes.

The sentence was much lighter than the maximum five years she could have been given, although Qi said "every day is heavy."

He told reporters kept behind a police line outside the court that the family would appeal the conviction because "we think it is not fair. She committed no crime."

The charge stemmed from a protest Wang took part in last year outside a southern China courthouse where three bloggers were on trial. Her lawyers, supporters and human rights groups said she was being punished for her broader activism. Her case came to symbolize Chinese leaders' rising wariness about a public that is wired to the Internet and upset at social injustice.

In recent months, signs of discontent have abounded on the streets and online, with riots by rural migrants, caustic reactions to the government's handling of a train collision on the showcase high-speed rail system and a 10,000-person strong protest over a chemical plant.

An energetic 56-year-old, Wang was detained in March in the massive arrest sweeps police used this spring to deter Chinese from imitating the uprisings against autocratic governments in the Arab world. She had grown outraged in recent years at officials' abuse of power and took to blogging and using the Internet, joining and organizing campaigns.

She was among 30 people to travel to Fuzhou city in April 2010 to wave banners and sing songs outside a courthouse while three bloggers stood trial, accused of slander for trying to help a woman persuade authorities to reinvestigate her daughter's death.