February 19, 2008 / 2:09 AM / 12 years ago

China opens trial of dissident who blasted Olympics

BEIJING, Feb 19 (Reuters) - China on Tuesday opened the trial of a worker accused of subversion after he promoted a petition calling for human rights to take precedence over the Olympic Games.

Yang Chunlin, an unemployed factory worker from Jiamusi city in China’s far northeast, was charged with "inciting subversion of state power" after he helped nearby villagers issue a petition about disputed land last year that declared, "We don’t want the Olympics, we want human rights".

The charge was also provoked by essays critical of the ruling Communist Party that Yang, 51, posted on the Internet, his lawyer, Li Fangping, told Reuters before going into court.

"I’m not expecting a result today," Li told Reuters by telephone. "But the court is now allowing an open hearing after we made representations yesterday about the closed hearing they wanted".

Yang says he is innocent and has the constitutional right to criticise officials, Li said. Yang was detained in July last year. Charges of inciting subversion often draw jail sentences of several years.

China hopes that Beijing’s 2008 Olympic Games that open in August will highlight its economic prosperity and social unity. But the government has imposed tight controls to prevent protests and dissent upsetting that image.

Authorities also recently formally arrested prominent Beijing dissident Hu Jia, who was detained for inciting subversion after vocally supporting campaigns for democratic reform, AIDS patients and environmental protection. (Reporting by Chris Buckley, editing by Ken Wills and Sanjeev Miglani) ((chris.buckley@reuters.com; +86 10 66271261))

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