BEIJING (AFP) — China has illegally blocked dissident Hu Jia from appealing a prison sentence, his lawyer said Thursday, in a case that has shone a harsh spotlight on Beijing's human rights record ahead of the Olympics.
Hu, a prominent human rights activist, was sentenced on April 3 to three years and six months in jail on charges of inciting subversion, and under Chinese law had 10 days from that date to challenge the verdict.
But he has been held incommunicado and barred from consulting with his legal team to discuss an appeal, lawyer Li Fangping told AFP.
"It doesn't matter what the situation is, regulations definitely must be followed and legal rights must be protected, such as allowing Hu Jia to meet with his defence lawyers," Li said.
Li said he and other defence lawyers had been repeatedly prevented from visiting their client at the Beijing No. 1 Municipal Detention Centre.
On April 13, the last day to lodge an appeal, the detention centre said Hu could not meet with lawyers because he had been sent for a physical examination required before prisoners are formally transferred to prison, Li said.
An official at the detention centre confirmed Hu had lost his chance to appeal but denied authorities were to blame.
"We have allowed them time to meet, but they didn't. We haven't prevented lawyers meeting him. After 10 days, they cannot meet now. After the 10 days expire, the verdict stands," said the official, who refused to give his name.
He also refused to confirm whether Hu was still being held at the detention centre or had been sent to prison.
Hu, who was arrested on December 27, has for years been one of China's highest-profile human rights campaigners, actively disseminating information about human rights abuses from his home in Beijing.
China, however, has viewed his activities as a challenge to the ruling Communist Party's authority and he was found guilty of "incitement to subvert state power" following a one-day trial last month.
The charge related to the 34-year-old Hu posting articles on the Internet about human rights issues and speaking with foreign reporters.
Chinese dissidents say his arrest is part of a broader crackdown on government critics to silence any potentially embarrassing dissent ahead of the Beijing Olympics in August.
His case has drawn condemnation from around the world, with US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice calling the verdict "disturbing."
Hu's lawyers complained repeatedly of a lack of access to their client in the run-up to the trial.
His wife Zeng Jinyan, human rights groups and some foreign leaders raised concerns over whether Hu was receiving proper treatment for his liver cirrhosis condition.
Police earlier rejected a bail plea on medical grounds, lawyers have said.
Police had also turned down several formal requests for lawyers to meet with Hu before the trial, saying the case involved "state secrets," which allows them to deny access to a suspect, according to his lawyers.
The Brussels-based International Federation of Journalists called on China to stop flouting its own laws in Hu's case.
"While the IFJ condemns outright the sentence against Hu and the process under which it was imposed, we nonetheless call on China to play by its own rules and allow an appeal," it said in a statement.
Copyright © 2013 AFP. All rights reserved. More »