China has commuted the prison sentence of a dissident who was convicted of illegally funding subversive political activities, according to state media.

The official Xinhua news agency says Wang Ce was released early from jail for good behavior.

The 52-year-old was arrested in November 1998 on charges arising from a $1,000 payment Mr. Wang allegedly made to another activist who was later charged with illegally setting up the China Democracy Party. Under the Chinese political system, the Communist Party does not allow any opposition groups to exist. Mr. Wang was serving a four-year prison sentence.

Mr. Wang's sister told the French news agency that Mr. Wang left China to return to Spain, where he had lived in the 1990s.

Mr. Wang was one of numerous political activists jailed in late 1998 and early 1999 in a crackdown on dissent. The Chinese president, Jiang Zemin, had vowed to stamp out threats to the ruling Communist Party. At the time, there were fears among the Chinese leadership that activists would seize on a series of politically sensitive anniversaries, including the 10th anniversary of the deadly crackdown on pro-democracy demonstrators in Tiananmen Square, to push for reform.

The jailing of numerous democracy activists in China has been the focus of much international criticism.