Three anti-corruption campaigners put on trial in China
Three anti-corruption campaigners have been put on trial in China as part of a crackdown on critics of the government.
The trial of Liu Ping, Wei Zhongping and Li Sihua began on Monday in the city of Xinyu, Jiangxi province. The three activists have been charged with illegal assembly after taking photographs of themselves with banners urging political leaders and officials to disclose their wealth.
The demands were made as part of a campaign called the New Citizens’ Movement, an anti-corruption campaign seeking greater transparency from the government.
Critics say that the trial leads to doubt about promises made by the Chinese president, Xi Jinping, about tackling corruption within the government. Earlier this year, Xi vowed to fight corruption by “resolutely investigating law-breaking cases of leading officials” in an official speech.
Human rights groups fear the trial will set a precedent for how the government will deal with opposition to its authority in the future.
“Liu, Wei, and Li are canaries in the coal mine for how the government intends to treat this influential group of anti-corruption activists,” said Sophie Richards, the China director of international non-governmental organisation Human Rights Watch, in a statement. “Anything short of acquittal will seriously undermine the credibility of the government’s claims to be cracking down on corruption,” she added.
Xu Zhiyong, a lawyer and founder of the New Citizens’ Movement, said: “The party promised to publish officials’ assets 30 years ago, something it has yet to do.”
The New Citizens’ Movement was founded in May 2012 as a civil rights group advocating equality, freedom and justice. At least 18 activists associated with the Movement have been arrested since April.
Zhang Xuezhong, one of Liu’s lawyers, told Reuters news agency that “serious procedural problems” had been found in the case, and he was “not optimistic” about the trial.