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China Jails Xue Mingkai For Joining Political Party

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BEIJING — A 20-year-old factory worker who joined a banned political party because he was unhappy with one-party rule in China was sentenced to jail for 18 months Wednesday, his mother said.

A court in southern China's boomtown city of Shenzhen found Xue Mingkai guilty of subversion of state power because he joined the U.S.-based China Democracy Party last April, Xue's mother Wang Shuqing said.

Xue was the latest of several people jailed in recent months for subversion or other vaguely defined laws that critics say are often used to silence dissent.

"This is very wicked, our country," Wang told The Associated Press by phone. "Chinese people have no human rights."

Human rights groups had said Xue faced up to 10 years in jail and three others he was in contact with had also been arrested and tried for subversion, in Liaoning, Hunan and Hubei provinces. The rulings on those cases could not immediately be found.

China allows a small number of officially recognized parties, although they serve as advisers to, rather than competitors with, the ruling Communist Party.

Xue's lawyers argued their client was not guilty because becoming a member of a political party did not amount to subversion, according to court documents posted on the Web site of the Chinese Human Rights Defenders group. His lawyers said Xue hoped eventually to start his own party.

"Since I was young I did not like the abuses of the one-party dictatorship and I wanted to establish a party to participate in politics and change the Chinese Communist Party's way of governing," Xue said during interrogation, according to a submission by the defense.

Founded by dissidents in 1998, the China Democracy Party was quashed six months later by the Communist Party. Dozens of founding members were arrested and sentenced to up to 13 years in prison, most on charges of subverting state power.

After the crackdown, some of the founding members fled to the United States.

A court Tuesday jailed for five years Tan Zuoren, an activist who investigated the deaths of thousands of children in the country's massive 2008 earthquake, on the charge of inciting subversion of state power. In December, prominent dissident Liu Xiaobo was jailed 11 years on the same charge.

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