Updated: 04/11/2014 11:35 | By Agence France-Presse

China rejects appeal by jailed legal activist: lawyer

A Chinese court on Friday rejected an appeal by a prominent anti-corruption activist jailed for supporting small-scale protests, his lawyer said, as the government cracks down on campaigners.


China rejects appeal by jailed legal activist: lawyer

Chinese police stop a foreign journalist (L) outside the No. 1 Intermediate court on January 22, 2014, as strict security was imposed ahead of the trial of Xu Zhiyong, one of China's most prominent dissidents - by Goh Chai Hin

Xu Zhiyong, 40, was convicted of "gathering crowds to disturb public order" and sentenced to four years in jail in January for supporting protests last year in which a handful of activists held banners calling for government officials to disclose their assets.

The legal scholar is a central figure in the New Citizens Movement, a loose-knit network of activists who campaign on corruption, access to education and other issues.

China has put 10 other members of the movement on trial on the same charge this year.

Beijing's high court rejected Xu's appeal and upheld its original verdict, his lawyer Zhang Qingfang told AFP, adding that his client remained defiant as the appeal verdict was announced.

Xu told the court: "This absurd judgment cannot halt the tide of human progress. The Communist dictatorship is bound to disperse like haze, and the light of freedom and justice will illuminate the east," Zhang said.

"This is absolutely an illegal and ridiculous decision," Zhang added.

The US and the European Union condemned the original verdict against Xu and a European diplomat said representatives from at least 10 countries attempted to observe the hearing, but were denied access by police outside the court.

Police "grabbed and shoved" at least one diplomat outside the courthouse, said the envoy, who declined to be named because of the sensitivity of the case.

China's ruling Communist Party is in the midst of a highly-publicised anti-corruption campaign, which President Xi Jinping has pledged will target both high-ranking "tigers" and low-level "flies" in the face of public anger over the issue. 

But the party has cracked down harshly on independent activists who have the same goals, viewing independently organised anti-corruption protests as a challenge to its rule.

Official asset disclosure is seen by some as a key reform which would help tackle graft, amid reports that some government officials have amassed massive wealth.

Three other activists associated with the New Citizens Movement stood trial in China's tightly controlled courts this week, and face maximum five year jail sentences for their role in the anti-corruption protests.

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