China court jails four anti-graft activists for protests
Chinese police stand guard outside a court where two Chinese anti-corruption activists Ding Jiaxi and Li Wei were on trial in Beijing's Haidian district on April 8, 2014 - by Goh Chai Hin
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 told AFP, 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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