A Chinese court announced on Friday it had sentenced a prominent human rights lawyer to a three year suspended jail sentence for subverting state power, after a closed-door trial.
President Xi Jinping has tightened the state’s grip on independent civil society since 2012, citing threats to national security and stability.
Li Heping, a civil rights lawyer who has previously defended practitioners of the banned Falun Gong spiritual movement, was detained along with dozens of activists and lawyers in mid-2015 during a crackdown on dissent.
As his trial touched upon state secrets, it was held behind closed doors on April 25 in the Tianjin City Number Two Intermediate People’s Court, according to a post on the court’s Weibo social media account.
The court handed down a three-year jail sentence, suspended for four years, it said, adding that Li would be stripped of his political privileges.
Patrick Poon, a Hong Kong-based China researcher for the rights group Amnesty International, said the decision to hold a closed trial raised the suspicion the allegations against him were “groundless”.
The sentence meant Li would be “silenced for another four years”, Poon said.
Li could not be reached for comment and telephone calls to the court were not answered.
Earlier on Friday, Li’s wife, Wang Qiaoling, sent rights activist’s videos via instant messaging platforms of men in plain clothes, who said they were policemen, in Beijing asking her to come with them.
She refused until they provided identification papers.
Phone calls to Wang went unanswered on Friday.
In its ruling, the court said that since 2008, Li