A court in southern China has sentenced a famous Chinese rights activist, Gou Feixiong, to six years imprisonment on Friday according to his lawyer, drawing concerns of a possible crackdown on human right advocates across the country.
The activist named Yang Maodang 48, popularly known as Guo Feixiong, had been detained by Chinese authorities for more than two years before being sentenced with his trial stuck in limbo due to delays and a boycott by his lawyers last year to protest against what they called procedural violations.
"Beijing's assault on civil society seems to know no bounds as peaceful activists are increasingly subject to criminal prosecutions," said Sophie Richardson, China Director at Human Rights Watch in New York.
"The Chinese government should immediately drop all charges against Guangzhou activists Guo Feixiong and Sun Desheng and release them."
Two other human right activists, Liu Yuandong and Sun Desheng, were also sentenced to three years and two-and-a-half years in prison respectively, Guo's lawyer, Zhang Lei said.
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei, said "China is a country with rule of law. A Chinese court handled this case in accordance with the law. Outsiders should respect China's judicial sovereignty."
Court officials did not answer phone calls concerning the sentencing.
According to human rights groups, Gou had been held in a crowded cell, and barred from taking exercise outdoors, which is a violation of international guidelines on the treatment of prisoners.
His lawyer said Gou’s health is in serious danger and two police officers had treated him roughly in court, injuring his arms.
Human rights groups also expressed concern about a widening attempt by President Xi Jinping to crackdown on dissent among academics, journalists and social activists.