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A journalist has been given 15 years in prison in China after reportedly attacking the Communist Party.
Chen Jieren has worked for some powerful newspapers in China and on Thursday he was convicted of “picking quarrels and provoking trouble, extortion, illegal business operations and bribery.”
The news came from an online statement delivered by a central Hunan province court, reports South China Morning Post.
Chinese authorities are known to use the broad charge of “picking quarrels and provoking trouble” against those who criticize the regime.
The court said that Chen “attacked and vilified the Communist Party and government” by sharing “false information” and “malicious speculation.”
Chen was once the mouthpiece for People’s Daily.
The court statement said, “The defendant published false information on blogs, WeChat public accounts, WeChat moments and other We-media to hype relevant cases under the guise of providing legal advice.”
The court said that Chen, his ex-wife and three others illegally acquired 7.3 million yuan ($1.4 million) and that they were part of an “evil force.”
According to the Chinese Human Rights Defenders, the conviction was “apparently to punish him for his political speech on WeChat and other social media platforms.”
It added that Chen was fired from state media outlets such as Beijing Daily, China Youth Daily and People's Daily. He then started publishing investigative reports and online commentaries to social media like Weibo and WeChat.
The organization accused Chinese authorities of not providing Chen with a fair trial and added that the sentence "sends a chilling signal to online independent commentators and citizen journalists."