China court jails four anti-graft activists for protests
Beijing: A Chinese court Friday sentenced four anti-corruption protestors to between two and three-and-a-half years in jail over their role in small-scale demonstrations, furthering a crackdown on rights activists.
The four were associated with the New Citizens Movement, a loose-knit network whose members held peaceful protests in Beijing last year, carrying banners calling for officials to disclose their assets as a measure against graft.
They were sentenced for "gathering a crowd to disturb public order", Beijing`s Haidian district court said on an official microblog.
Ding Jiaxi, a well-known human rights lawyer, was jailed for three-and-a-half years, while veteran activist Zhao Changqing was jailed for two-and-a-half years, the court said.
Fellow protesters Zhang Baocheng and Li Wei both received two-year sentences.
The verdicts come days after Beijing`s high court upheld a four-year sentence for Xu Zhiyong, a founder of the movement. Ten New Citizens Movement members have faced trial this year.
"The ruling is a warning and a threat," Ge Yongxi, a lawyer for Zhang Baocheng said, adding that his client complied with police requests to hand over his banners when the protests, involving a handful of activists, were curtailed.
"We think he`s completely innocent, there is no legal basis for the court`s ruling, and the punishment is too heavy," Ge added.
China`s ruling Communist Party has repeatedly vowed to combat rampant corruption, with President Xi Jinping threatening to target high-ranking "tigers" and low-level "flies" in the face of public anger over the issue.
But the party has cracked down on activists pursuing the same goals, viewing independently organised anti-corruption protests as a challenge to its tight grip on power.
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