updated 2/5/2008 8:42:52 AM ET 2008-02-05T13:42:52

A court Tuesday sentenced a Chinese democracy activist who wrote about corruption to four years in prison on subversion charges, his wife and lawyer said.

Lu Gengsong was convicted of "inciting subversion of state power" by the Intermediate People's Court in Hangzhou, a resort city near the eastern commercial center of Shanghai.

No questions or statements were allowed and Lu was led away immediately after the reading of the sentencing announcement, which lasted less than 20 minutes, said Lu's wife, Wang Xue'e.

Inciting subversion is a vague charge frequently used to silence whistle-blowers and critics of the ruling Communist Party.

Lu's lawyer, Mo Shaoping, said he planned to appeal.

Wang said that only she, their daughter, and two friends were allowed to attend the hearing. She said others present told her they were public security bureau employees sent to fill up seats.

"The judge began to read the sentence immediately. No questions could be asked and there was no chance for any of us to say anything," Wang said. "I asked the judge if I could meet my husband for a minute but he refused."

Few details made public
Another activist, Cheng Fan, said former prisoners and pro-democracy activists told him they had been prevented from attending the sentencing by police who refused to let them leave their homes.

A clerk reached by phone at the court refused to give out any details of the case or give his name.

Lu went on trial two weeks ago. His lawyer, Mo Shaoping, said at the time that Lu's indictment cited 19 essays that Lu had posted on the internet.

Wang said at the time that Lu had written about local corruption cases, including allegations that city officials colluded with business people on real estate development projects. Lu turned to freelance writing after being fired from his job as a lecturer at a police training academy in 1993, Wang said.

China's ruling Communist Party is cracking down on human rights activists ahead of the Olympics, and still maintains tight control over all media and the Internet.

A leading Chinese dissident, Hu Jia, who chronicled the plight of other dissidents through the Internet, was taken from his home in December and was recently arrested and charged with inciting subversion.

The New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists labels China the world's leading jailer of journalists, saying at least 29 reporters are currently locked up.

Copyright 2008 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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