China has sentenced prominent rights activist Wu Gan to eight years for subversion after online criticism of Beijing's leaders. His jailing is the harshest punishment in a two-year crackdown on dissent.
A court in northeast China on Tuesday handed down an eight year sentence for subversion to the well-known activist Wu Gan, his lawyer said.
The self-proclaimed Ultra Vulgar Butcher was found guilty by the Tianjin No 2 Intermediate Court of subverting state power after he was arrested in 2015 for posting attention-grabbing activism campaigns online.
He had been held in pre-trial detention for two years.
A statement from the court said Wu had criticized China's political system online and used performance art to create disturbances, as well as insulting people and spreading false information.
"He carried out a string of criminal actions to subvert state power and overthrow the socialist system and seriously harmed state security and social stability," the court said.
In one campaign, he posed for online portraits brandishing knives that he said he would use to “slaughter the pigs” among local officials who had done wrong.
China has launched a crackdown on legal professionals who tackle sensitive human rights cases including Xie Yang
In response to the sentence, Wu cheekily said he was "grateful to the (Communist) party for granting me this lofty honor," his lawyer Ge Yongxi told The Associated Press.
He went on to poke fun at a phrase often used by Chinese President Xi JinPing to motivate Communist Party officials, by saying: "I will remain true to our original aspiration, roll up my sleeves and make an extra effort."
Wu also used his online platform to cast doubt on the official version of events in a controversial case in which a police officer shot a petitioner in a train station in northern China's Heilongjiang province in May 2015.
He was among the first activists caught up in a major government clampdown on rights campaigners in 2015.
Wu also worked for the Beijing Fengrui Law Firm, which also came under the spotlight for taking on sensitive human rights cases.
Campaigners say Wu's sentence is the most severe yet against rights activists and lawyers, known as the 709 crackdown.
His arrest spurred other family members to take up activism, including his father Xu Xioashun — who had been asked by authorities to admit that Wu was guilty.
mm/jm (AP, Reuters)