China jails dissident ahead of vice president’s US trip

BEIJING: A Chinese court jailed a veteran dissident to seven years in jail today, his son said, in the latest blow to challengers of the Communist Party’s rule before its presumed next leader, Xi Jinping, visits the White House.

Zhu Yufu was jailed for ‘inciting subversion of state power’ by a court in Hangzhou, a city in eastern China, after a trial hearing on Jan. 31 when prosecutors cited a poem and messages he sent on the Internet, his son Zhu Ang told Reuters by telephone.

‘The court verdict said this was a serious crime that deserved stern punishment,’ said Zhu Ang, who was allowed to attend the court hearing with his mother.

‘Now my mother is terribly upset, even if we saw this coming,’ said Zhu Ang, 31. He said the verdict cited his father’s online calls for mobilisation in the name of democracy. ‘Basically, the only chance my father had to say anything was when he was being taken out after the hearing, and he stopped and said, ‘I want to appeal’.’

Tensions over human rights are likely to overshadow talks when Xi visits the United States next week. Vice President Joe Biden, who will host Xi, met advocates to discuss the ‘deterioration’ of rights in China, the White House said yesterday, signalling the issue is likely to figure in talks. Xi, who is nearly certain to succeed Hu Jintao as Communist Party chief in late 2012 and as state president in early 2013, leaves on Monday for Washington. Xi (pronounced like ‘shee’) is likely to face US criticism over China’s clampdown in restive Tibetan areas after a series of self-immolation protests.

At a briefing on Xi’s trip, a senior Chinese diplomat, Cui Tiankai, indicated his government would not welcome being publicly criticised by the Obama administration over rights. (UNI)