updated 9/23/2005 7:06:37 PM ET 2005-09-23T23:06:37

A Chinese court has convicted an online journalist on subversion charges and sentenced him to seven years in prison — the third such case this year, a court official and a reporters' advocacy group said Friday.

Zheng Yichun was convicted on Thursday said an official at the Intermediate People's Court in Yingkou, a port city in northeastern China's Liaoning province. The official, who would give only his surname, Ma, said he was not able to give any details.

"It's an internal case," Ma said, using the Chinese term "neibu," which describes a wide variety of information considered classified or otherwise not for public release.

The New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists, citing unnamed sources, said Zheng was given a seven-year jail term for "inciting subversion" through his writings published by overseas-based online news sites that are blocked within China.

Zheng, a former professor, wrote hundreds of articles for online news sites, including the Epoch Times, a Web site linked to the banned spiritual group Falun Gong, the group said.

Epoch Times recently ran a critical study of the ruling party's history and policies titled "Nine Commentaries on the Communist Party."

"Zheng has done nothing more than express his opinions, a right that is guaranteed to all Chinese citizens," said Ann Cooper, executive director for the Committee to Protect Journalists.

Although China's leaders encourage the use of the Internet for business and education, authorities use vaguely defined secrecy and subversion laws to silence critics and perceived political opponents.

Journalist Shi Tao was sentenced in April to 10 years in prison for having sent an e-mail overseas. Chinese authorities used information provided by U.S. Internet powerhouse Yahoo to convict Shi after he wrote the e-mail about media restrictions.

In July, a court in eastern China's Anhui province sentenced a veteran Chinese political activist, Zhang Lin, to five years in prison for material he posted on the Internet. Those included lyrics from a punk song the court ruled had incited subversion of state power.

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