Tearful ? Hu Jia's wife, Zeng Jinyan, with their baby.
The sentence was handed down as Chinese officials also confirmed for the first time they have been grappling with ethnic unrest on a second front, in the mainly Muslim Xinjiang province.
The Beijing No. 1 Intermediate People's Court yesterday found Hu Jia, 34, guilty of "inciting subversion of state power".
The ruling was based on five online articles and interviews with foreign reporters in which he spoke out on taboo topics including Tibet and the need for more religious freedom in China. He also compared the Communist Party with the Mafia.
The court agreed with the prosecutor that Hu's statements violated a law banning incitement to subvert state authority. Hu had pleaded not guilty. One of his lawyers, Li Fangping, said Hu was only exercising his right to free speech.
Hu's wife, Zeng Jinyan, and their baby, who have been under house arrest in Beijing since January, were allowed to attend the sentencing yesterday morning, with Hu's mother. Leaving the court, Ms Zeng, 24, burst into tears as she said the verdict was the culmination of four years of harassment. "He's been kidnapped ? This is not fair. This is not just."
On Wednesday, Chinese officials said hundreds of Muslims who took part in protests in Xinjiang were trying to "incite splittism, create disturbances in the marketplace and even trick the masses into an uprising".