A Chinese court convicted human rights lawyer Pu Zhiqiang on Tuesday of "inciting ethnic hatred" and over his comments criticising the government on social media giving him three-year suspended sentence and barred him from practicing law.
A prominent human rights lawyer, Pu, criticised “excessively violent” crackdown of Chinese authorities on Uighurs in Xinjiang region on the social media platform Weibo.
State television CCTV said Pu received suspended sentence, meaning he will be placed under probation on the charges of inciting ethnic hatred and "picking quarrels and provoking trouble."
Pu (50) has been in jail for about 19 months and his lawyer said he may have faced up to eight years in prison.
However, Pu’s lawyer, Shang Baojun said he may be placed under "residential surveillance."
In the past two years, the government has launched a nationwide crackdown and jailed hundreds of rights lawyers.
Rights lawyer Pu’s trial came one month after a report by Human Rights group Amnesty International documented increasing torture targeting lawyers in China.
Since July, approximately 200 attorneys or activists have been targeted, including 28 people who are still missing or in police custody, Amnesty stated.
The report said forced confessions as well as torture targeting lawyers and rights activists remains and have increased in China, even after the country made some advances in its legal system to protect the rights of detainees in 2010.
A China researcher for Human Rights Watch, Maya Wang said Pu’s trial was extremely important as he was “the ultimate canary in the coal mine.”
"If they decide to be harsh against him, I'd say it'll signify a further escalation of hostility towards human rights activism" she said.
50-year-old Pu was detained in May within the government’s 2-year campaign on corruption, following a meeting he attended to commemorate pro-democracy protests in Tiananmen Square in 1989.