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UN rights chief ‘deeply concerned’ at activist’s conviction

UN human rights chief Navi Pillay on Monday said she was “deeply concerned” at China’s jailing of veteran human rights activist Chen Wei for a nine-year term.

“The conviction and extremely harsh sentencing of Chen Wei indicates a further tightening of the severe restrictions on the scope of freedom of expression in China that has been seen over the last two years,” Pillay said.

Chen was jailed by a court in southwest China on Friday for “inciting subversion of state power”.

Pillay’s statement also noted that it came a week after Chinese lawyer Gao Zhisheng was sentenced to three years’ imprisonment just before the end of his suspended sentence.

“This verdict, along with the court’s decision of last week on Gao Zhisheng, are the latest examples of an escalating clampdown on the activities of human rights defenders in China,” Pillay added.

“I call upon Chinese authorities to release any person detained for peacefully exercising his or her right to freedom of expression,” the High Commissioner for Human Rights said.

Police arrested Wei in February as part of a wider crackdown against rights activists in the wake of political upheaval that rocked the Arab world and sparked calls for similar anti-government demonstrations in China.

He was also active in the 1989 pro-democracy movement.