( AP ) - Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said Thursday that China's sentencing of an outspoken Chinese civil right activist is "deeply disturbing to the United States." The case has drawn international criticism ahead of the Beijing Summer Olympics.
Hu Jia was convicted of charges of "inciting subversion of state power" based on Internet articles he had written and interviews he gave to foreign media, says his lawyer Li Fangping. The 34-year-old was sentenced to sentenced to 3 1/2 years in jail on those subversion charges Thursday.
"It is a decision that is deeply disturbing to the United States," Rice told reporters at the NATO summit. "It is exactly the kind of decision that we have tried to convince the Chinese is not only not in the interests of human rights and in the interest of rule of law, but actually not in China's interest."
Hu has been a vocal critic of China's human rights record for years, focusing on AIDS and the environment.
In recent years he has become a one-man clearinghouse chronicling the plight of other dissidents.
Using the Internet and the phone, he has detailed the arrests, harassment and detention of activists, journalists and diplomats in China. Hu's case has gained international attention, with both U.S. and European officials repeatedly calling for his release in meetings with Chinese officials.
Rice said the United States is already planning to restart a human rights conversation with China's leaders - including "what kinds of things are considered criminal in China that in most of the world would not be considered so."
She said President Bush still plans to attend the Olympics in Beijing this summer, despite some calls by critics of China for the president to boycott.
Rice repeated Bush's assertion that the Olympics is a sporting event, not a political event. She called it a big opportunity for the people of China to shine.
"The Chinese people need to know that the United States and the American people support their emergence on the world stage," Rice said.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, among other U.S. lawmakers, has suggested Bush should consider staying away from the opening ceremony following China's crackdown on protesters in Tibet.
Hu has 10 days to appeal the sentence, but his lawyer, Li, said a decision on an appeal has not been made yet. "We're happy that he was not charged with a more severe crime, but three years and six months we still think is unacceptable," Li said.
Beijing routinely uses the nebulous charge of subversion to imprison dissidents for years.
U.S. Embassy spokeswoman Susan Stevenson expressed disappointment over Thursday's verdict, saying the world was closely watching China's progress on human rights ahead of the Olympic Games. Stevenson said Rice had pressed Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi for Hu's immediate release during her February visit to China.