China court jails three anti-corruption activists

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Friday, June 20, 2014

A court in Xinyu, China, has sentenced three anti-corruption activists to prison for causing public disturbance. Wei Zhongping and Liu Ping received a prison sentence of six-and-a-half years under charges of "using evil religion to sabotage law enforcement" and "picking fights and provoking trouble". A third activist Li Sihua was also convicted for the last charge.

The three activists, who were associated members of the New Citizen’s Movement, were arrested last year during an anti-corruption protest that urged government officials to reveal their earnings. Zhou Ze, Li’s Lawyer, told the AFP that an opportunity to appeal the charges had been discarded as pointless as “The ruling in an appeal is already decided.” "The charges against these activists were preposterous from the very beginning," said William Nee, researcher for Amnesty International. The accused stood trial at a high security court late last year where, according to the BBC, their lawyers were concerned about serious procedural problems. "The harsh sentences are just the latest moves in the politically motivated crackdown on the New Citizens Movement," Nee said later in an emailed statement.

Chinese Prime Minster Xi Jinping launched an initiative to crackdown on corruption after his appointment in 2012, however grassroots campaigns and activists have also been targeted with this drive. Several activists and rights lawyers have been detained for “disturbing the public order”. Party leaders have sought to rid the government of corruption facing concerns that the widespread organisation of protests may lead to a looser grip on political control. Xu Zhiyong, a founder of the New Citizens Movement, was sentenced to a four-year jail sentence in April. Several other Beijing-based participants will also serve jail terms for disrupting the public order.