Under the three-year sentence, Pu will be monitored by police and can only leave Beijing with permission.
Mr Pu was facing a maximum term of eight years in penitentiary.
At his trial, Pu admitted that he had a “sharp, caustic and sometimes vulgar” writing style online, but insisted that his actions did not warrant the charges of “inciting ethnic hatred” or “provoking trouble”.
The court determined Pu provoked ethnic discord and incited ethnic hatred via multiple entries he posted on his social media account on Weibo.com from 2012 to 2014.
After a prolonged investigation, Pu stood trial on December 14 – after more than 19 months in detention – for several of his online comments that questioned Beijing’s ethnic policies and poked fun at some political figures.
The Times calls Pu “the most prominent rights lawyer to be arrested during a far-reaching crackdown on dissent under the leadership of President Xi Jinping”. He was known for defending freedom of speech, and campaigned for an abolition of the labor camp system, which puts suspects into confinement for years without trial.
Pu’s initial detention on May 6, 2014, came ahead of an event marking the anniversary of the military crackdown on the 1989 student-led pro-democracy movement at Tiananmen Square, in which he played a prominent role. Liu added that if Pu does return to jail, the time he already has served will be deducted from his final sentence. The guilty verdict likely means he will no longer be able to practice law.
Mr. Pu’s lawyers and supporters say his messages weren’t unusually inflammatory by the standards of Chinese social media.
Amnesty International criticised the guilty verdict as a “gross injustice”, but welcomed the deferred sentence.
According to Mo, Pu told the court: “If my tweets caused any harm, then I am happy to make an apology in person, and they are also free to sue me”.
Comments censored include “the suspended sentence doesn’t mean that the rule of law is prevailed” by another rights lawyer, Ge Yongxi. “I wouldn’t try to paint any larger picture of this being a watershed, or this being any sort of turning point in the repression of dissidents”.
“We are not satisfied with the verdict because we maintain Pu is innocent”.
“Pu isn’t guilty”, Ai told Reuters from Italy by telephone. “So speaking for the common people is a crime?” yelled one tearful woman as she was roughly shoved into a police van by uniformed officers and plainclothed officials.
About a dozen diplomats, who turned up in the hope of seeing the verdict being delivered, said they had been turned away on the grounds that the courtroom was full.