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Chinese Dissident Arrested on Subversion Charges

China has arrested a dissident on charges of subversion, after he helped organize a petition asking Communist Party leaders to improve human rights.

Human rights activists say Chinese officials have charged Zhao Changqing with "inciting to subvert state power," two months after he and almost 200 other pro-democracy activists released an open letter demanding political reforms.

The New York-based group, Human Rights in China, says Mr. Zhao has been in detention since he co-signed the letter in November, on the eve of a crucial Chinese leadership congress in Beijing. He could face 15 years in prison.

Mr. Zhao was ill with tuberculosis when he was arrested, and, Human Rights in China says, his deteriorating health has forced officials to transfer him to a prison hospital. In a statement Friday, the group says Mr. Zhao is just the latest of at least five dissidents arrested by Chinese police in connection with the petition.

Other activists, including He Depu and Jiang Lijun, were detained around the opening of the party congress, which ushered in a new generation of leaders in China's ruling Communist Party.

The dissidents called on the government to reverse its verdict condemning the 1989 pro-democracy protests at Beijing's Tiananmen Square, and the release of prisoners of conscience.

The rights group says the arrests demonstrate Beijing's continuing intolerance for dissent, despite the recent release of prominent political prisoner, Xu Wenli, after years of prodding by Washington.