A Beijing court found Ji Zhongxing, 34, guilty of intentionally causing an explosion, Ji's lawyer, Liu Xiaoyuan, said. State media confirmed the sentence.

Ji detonated the bomb at Beijing airport after being prevented from handing out leaflets that drew attention to his complaints. His case struck a chord with many Chinese citizens seeking justice in an inflexible political system.

Ji, from eastern Shandong province, had been seeking redress for a claimed beating by police in southern Guangdong province dating back to 2005 that left him wheelchair-bound. He had been petitioning for justice ever since.

Detonating the bomb at Beijing's main airport ensured widespread exposure for Ji, even though he and a policeman who received slight wounds were the only people hurt. He faced a maximum sentence of 10 years.

"We believe that this verdict is questionable," Liu said, adding that Ji did not intend to blow up the airport or commit suicide.

"During the trial, (authorities) did not seek to find out the facts," Liu said. "Although it was mentioned in the verdict statement, they never fully considered or discovered the cause of the bombing at the airport."

Liu said Ji, who was wheeled into court on a stretcher, said he would consider appealing against the decision. He has 10 days to file an appeal.

Ji's sentence comes weeks after the execution of a Chinese kebab vendor, who was convicted of killing two city officials, sparked public criticism of a justice system said to punish the poor harshly while letting the rich and powerful off more lightly.

"What we want to know more is: How will those assailants who injured him in the first place be punished?" Chen Haodong, vice dean of an art school in Southern Guangdong province, wrote on his microblog.

Gong Liegang, a lawyer based in Kunming, the capital of southwestern Yunnan province, called the sentence "abnormally harsh" and described Ji as "a vulnerable person" who had no other way to protect his rights.

Chinese unable to win redress for grievances have in the past resorted to extreme measures, including bombings, but such incidents are rare because of tight state security.

Ji's protest had come just days after security workers apparently beat to death a watermelon vendor in southern Hunan province in a dispute over where he could sell his fruit. Both cases have drawn public criticism about official abuse of power.

(Agencies)

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