China jails dissident ahead of vice president's US trip

BEIJING - A Chinese court sentenced a veteran dissident to seven years in jail on Friday, his son said, in the latest strike against challengers to the Communist Party's rule before its next leader, Xi Jinping, visits Washington.

Zhu Yufu was jailed for "inciting subversion of state power"by a court in Hangzhou, eastern China, after a trial hearing on Jan 31 when prosecutors cited a poem and messages he had 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 said he 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 that 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'."

Chinese Vice President Xi, virtually certain to succeed Hu Jintao as Communist Party chief from late 2012 and as state president from early 2013, leaves on Monday for Washington, where he is likely to face criticism over China's punishment of independent political activity and clampdown in Tibetan areas.

The sentencing of Zhu, who turns 59 this month, followed the jailing of two other Chinese dissidents in December who received prison terms 10 and 9 years on subversion charges. Such charges are often used to punish ardent advocates of democratic change.