China jailed a lawyer for 7 years for subversion

China jailed a lawyer for 7 years for subversionA prominent human rights lawyer was sentenced to seven years in jail for subversion by Chinese court on Thursday.

Zhou Shifeng became the latest in a row of convicted linked to an unprecedented crackdown on legal defenders. The director of the Beijing Fengrui law firm is among dozens of lawyers and activists who since July last year have been swept up in a crackdown on dissent.

China has tightened control over almost every aspect of civil society since 2012, citing the need to buttress national security and stability. Country’s administration also rejects any criticism of its human rights record, saying it acts to the rule of law.

Zhou pleaded guilty to subversion of state power and would not appeal the sentence issued by a court in the northern city of Tianjin, the official Xinhua news agency said.

"Zhou Shifeng had long been influenced by anti-China forces" and had hyped cases and made remarks online and offline about "overturning the government", Xinhua citied prosecutors as saying.

Authorities have accused Zhou's firm, which has represented high-profile clients such as ethnic Uighur dissident Ilham Tohti, of orchestrating protests and politicizing legal cases in order to attract international attention. Xinhua said Zhou had confessed that the firm's actions had drawn the attention of "foreign forces".

State-run media accused Zhou of operating a “criminal syndicate” that masterminded serious illegal activities to incite “social disorder” all in the name of making money.

Authorities accused Zhou of drawing unwarranted amounts of public attention to “sensitive cases” by publishing information about them online and encouraging people to appear outside courthouses where trials of such cases were being held.

Zhou's associates, activists Zhai Yanmin and Hu Shigen, were also sentenced by The Tianjin court on similar charges.
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