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China charges blogger Ran Yunfei with inciting subversion

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The Chinese government is stepping up its crackdown on political speech, formally charging Ran Yunfei, a magazine editor and writer from Sichuan province, with inciting subversion of state power. The formal charges come a month after Ran was detained by Chinese authorities for calling for a “Jasmine Revolution” in China, in the wake of popular uprising topping authoritarian regimes in the Middle East.

Inciting subversion of state power is the same charge Chinese authorities levied against Liu Xiaobo, a dissident writer currently serving an 11-year prison sentence for his writings. Liu was awarded the 2010 Nobel Peace Prize, much to the dismay of the Chinese government. The principal reason for Liu’s imprisonment was co-writing the Charter 08 manifesto that called for widespread reform of the Chinese political system. Ran was a signatory to Charter 09.

As with Liu’s case, human rights activists expect Chinese authorities will cite Ran’s essays published on the Internet as evidence of his guilt.

Last week, Chinese authorities sentenced another writer from Sichuan, Liu Xianbin, to 10 years in prison for his writings arguing for democratic reform of the Chinese government. Reports from China and in other media also have authorities detaining more than 100 other bloggers, lawyers, and other dissidents as part of a larger coordinated crackdown, and several prominent civil rights lawyers in the country have simply disappeared.

The government crackdown is widely seen as an effort to quell dissent ahead of a party leadership transition due to take place in 2012.