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China Convicts Writer Who Criticized Communist Official


FILE - China's propaganda chief Liu Yunshan.

A Chinese court has given a suspended two-and-a-half-year prison sentence to an 81-year-old writer who recently criticized a senior Communist Party official.

Huang Zerong was also slapped with a $4,800 fine Wednesday after the court in his hometown of Chengdu found him guilty of "running an illegal business."

The writer, who is better known by his pen name Tie Liu, was the editor of a magazine called Small Scars from the Past. He was arrested in September after writing several articles critical of China's propaganda chief, Liu Yunshan.

Authorities initially charged Huang with "picking quarrels and provoking trouble," a highly flexible and vague charge often used against dissidents.

His lawyer, Liu Xiaoyuan, said that accusation was later dropped.

"Later on, the charges were changed to 'running an illegal business.' Even if the alleged crime of running an illegal business was correct, he ran the magazine in Beijing, not in Chengdu, where he was sentenced. This is abnormal," Liu said.

Huang is a longtime critic of Communist leaders. As a young journalist, he spent more than 20 years in labor camps after criticizing former leader, Mao Zedong.

His assistant, Huang Jing, was also given a one-year suspended sentence and fined $800 by the court. The suspended sentences mean they will likely not see jail time unless officials say they have broken the law again.

China's Communist Party-run courts have given stiff jail sentences to a steady flow of lawyers, activists, authors and journalists in recent years, as part of a fierce crackdown on freedom of speech.