China: Trials of activists 'make a mockery' of government anti-corruption claims

Amnesty International has called on the Chinese authorities to immediately release the prominent New Citizens’ Movement activist Xu Zhiyong, whose trial is due to start in Beijing tomorrow.
 
A highly regarded legal scholar, Xu Zhiyong has been detained in Beijing since last July after he wrote an article in May 2012 entitled China Needs a New Citizens’ Movement, which is credited with spurring a loose network of activists who aim to promote government transparency and expose corruption.
 
Xu Zhiyong faces charges of “gathering a crowd to disturb order in a public place” and could be jailed for up to five years if convicted. Xu Zhiyong has described the “New Citizens’ Movement” as a peaceful cultural, social and political campaign.
 
At a pre-trial hearing last Friday, a judge rejected a request from Xu Zhiyong’s lawyer for his case to be tried alongside other defendants who have been jointly charged for their activities linked to the New Citizens’ Movement. Xu Zhiyong has said he will remain silent in court in protest at this decision.
 
Dozens of people linked to the New Citizens’ Movement - however tenuously - have been detained over the past year. Several of these activists have already been prosecuted simply for exercising their rights to assembly and free speech. After Xu Zhiyong, a further six activists are due to stand trial in Beijing later this week - Zhao Changqing and Hou Xin on Thursday, and Ding Jiaxi, Li Wei, Yuan Dong and Zhang Baocheng on Friday.
 
Amnesty International East Asia Research Director Roseann Rife said:
 

“Instead of President Xi Jinping’s promised clampdown on corruption, we are seeing a crackdown against those that want to expose it. The persecution of activists associated with the New Citizens Movement has to end.
 
“We consider Xu Zhiyong to be a prisoner of conscience and he should be released immediately and unconditionally. Anything less would make a mockery of the Chinese government’s ongoing anti-corruption efforts.
 
“By denying a collective trial the judge is preventing the full truth from being heard. It is yet another example of the injustice these activists face.”

 
Three other activists - Liu Ping, Wei Zhongping and Li Sihua - were put on trial in December in Jiangxi Province in southern China.  Zhang Lin, a veteran activist, stood trial on 18 December. The verdict in these cases is still to be announced.
 
Background
According to the organisation Chinese Human Rights Defenders, more than 65 people who are allegedly connected with the New Citizens’ Movement were detained or subjected to enforced disappearance as of early December. Thirty-seven have been formally arrested.
 
Suggested activities for “New Citizens” include: practising “New Citizen Responsibility” by rejecting corruption and by doing good for society, participating in civic life by holding meetings to discuss the political situation, helping the weak, and uniting to share and coordinate work.
 

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