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US, Germany Condemn China's Sentencing of Human Rights Blogger

Pro-democracy activists hold pictures of Chinese activist Wu Gan (2nd-R) and other activists outside the Chinese central government's liaison office in Hong Kong, Dec. 27, 2017.

The United States and Germany jointly urged China Wednesday to release a human rights activist who was sentenced to eight years in prison.

Wu Gan, a blogger who goes by the nickname "Super Vulgar Butcher," was sentenced Tuesday in the Tianjin No. 2 Intermediate People's Court in Beijing on charges of subversion. In a separate case Tuesday, human rights lawyer Xie Yang was exempted from serving any jail time after being charged with inciting subversion of state power.

"The embassies of Germany and the United States are deeply disappointed that Chinese human rights defender and blogger Wu Gan and Chinese attorney Xie Yang have been convicted on vague charges of "subverting state power" and that Wu has been sentenced to eight years in prison," a statement released by the embassies of Germany and the U.S. read.

"We call on the Chinese authorities to release Wu immediately," the statement said. "As Xie has been exempted from punishment, we urge China to allow Xie to resume his professional activities without preconditions and be free of any restrictions."

Wu, who was arrested in May 2015 in southeastern China, gained notoriety for mocking Chinese political officials in a long-running campaign against corruption and abuse of power. The court ruled that Wu tried to "overthrow state power and the socialist system" through a series of "criminal" actions, including spreading false information and insulting people online.

Xie was arrested in 2015 and detained for two years before he released on bail in May.

Shortly before his release, Xie claimed he was tortured during his long detention, including repeated beatings. He has since denied those allegations.

"In light of the allegations of serious mistreatment of Wu Gan and Xie Yang while in detention, and Xie's public confession on state media, we call on the Chinese authorities to adhere to procedures established by law and respect China's international human rights obligations and commitments," the statement from German and U.S. embassies said.

Wu Gan is among the hundreds of human rights activists and lawyers swept up in a massive government crackdown on dissent — dubbed the "709 crackdown"— that began in earnest in July 2015. Wu's lawyer said his client will appeal the verdict against him.