A Chinese court sentenced Zhou Shifeng, a lawyer whose firm is known for taking on politically sensitive cases to seven years in prison. Mr. Zhou’s Beijing-based law firm, Fengrui, has defended some of China’s most politically sensitive figures, including dissident artist, Ai Weiwei and members of the banned Falun Gong religious group. The firm also represented Ilham Tohti, an economics professor and ethnic-rights activist from China’s Uighur minority group who was sentenced to life in prison for inciting ethnic hatred and other charges in 2014.
The lawyer, Zhou Shifeng, was a target in a government sweep a year ago in which roughly two dozen lawyers and activists were arrested and more than 300 others briefly detained or interrogated. That began an offensive against what was once a growing human-rights movement among Chinese lawyers.
Appearing in court on Thursday in the city of Tianjin, Mr. Zhou was the first lawyer among those arrested to face trial. He was sentenced to seven years after he pleaded guilty to subverting state power, according to the official Xinhua News Agency.
Prosecutors accused Mr. Zhou of a variety of offenses that included seeking out sensitive cases for publicity, using activists to organize protests that attacked the legal system, and “luring people who didn’t know better into seeing the state as an enemy,” according to a court transcript of the trial posted online.