China has sentenced two veteran pro-democracy activists to prison as part of a general crackdown on government critics before a key Communist Party congress, a human rights group said today.
A court in the eastern city of Qingdao sentenced Mu Chuanheng to three years in prison and Yan Peng to 1 1/2 years, both on charges of trying to overthrow the government, and [accused of] insulting the nation's leaders, Human Rights in China said.
The two had been in detention for more than a year before sentencing, which violates Chinese law, the New York-based group said. Yan was detained July 11, 2001, on suspicion of leaving China illegally while visiting the southern city of Beihai with a tour group. Mu was detained Aug. 13, 2001, after publicizing Yan's detention and demanding his release, it said.
The charges apparently were based on protest letters Mu addressed to government leaders, the group said.
The two were tried and sentenced as part of a crackdown on critics before the Communist Party's 16th National Congress in November, the rights group said.
Human rights groups and observers of Chinese politics said the government has banned books, blocked Internet sites and clamped down on other activists before the national congress, the first in five years.