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Chinese Activist Sentenced to 6 Years for Protesting Censorship


FILE - Zhang Qing, left, wife of Chinese human rights activist Guo Feixiong, and daughter Yang Tianjiao speak at a press conference before a hearing of a House Foreign Affairs Committee subcommittee in Washington, D.C., October 29, 2013.

FILE - Zhang Qing, left, wife of Chinese human rights activist Guo Feixiong, and daughter Yang Tianjiao speak at a press conference before a hearing of a House Foreign Affairs Committee subcommittee in Washington, D.C., October 29, 2013.

China has sentenced three human rights activists to harsh prison terms for participating in an anti-censorship protest in 2013.

The attorney for the three, Zhang Lei, told VOA that he is "shocked and angered" by the verdict, which gave a sentence of six years to activist Guo Feixiong.

Zhang said the court added an extra criminal charge to his client's case just moments before Friday's trial started.

"The way the court has unilaterally imposed new criminal charges on the defendant is unheard of. It's shocking, horrifying," Zhang said Friday.

Sentences

Activists Liu Yuandong and Sun Desheng were sentenced to three years and 2½ years, respectively, for participating in the same demonstration.

The three were charged with "gathering crowds to disturb social order" and Guo received the additional charge of "picking quarrels and provoking trouble." Both charges are often used broadly against dissidents.

The protest they took part in was a weeklong peaceful demonstration in 2013 outside the headquarters of the Southern Weekly newspaper. The demonstrators called on Beijing to give up censorship practices that affected the paper.

Zhang said he will be filing appeals for all three of his clients.

Zhang also expressed concerns about Guo's health, saying his client's physical state has deteriorated since his arrest in 2013.

He said Guo, 48, has been held in a crowded cell and barred from going outside for exercise, in violation of international standards on the treatment of prisoners.

Zhang also said his client was treated roughly in court. He blamed police officers handling Guo for injuring his client's arms.

Accusations

Rights group Amnesty International has said Sun Desheng was forced to wear handcuffs and leg cuffs for a long time while in detention.

And Human Rights Watch has spoken out as well, calling on China to drop all charges against the three.

Rights groups and Western nations have repeatedly expressed concern about Chinese President Xi Jinping's broad campaign to crack down on dissent among journalists, activists, and scholars.

Joyce Huang contributed to this report.

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