China court jails anti-corruption activists

Chinese police stand guard outside a court where two Chinese anti-corruption activists Ding Jiaxi and Li Wei are on trial in Beijing's Haidian district on 8 April, 2014 Image copyright AFP
Image caption The four activists have been on trial in Beijing

A Chinese court has jailed four activists linked to the New Citizens' Movement, which campaigns for government transparency.

Human rights lawyer Ding Jiaxi was jailed for three and a half years while veteran activist Zhao Changqing was jailed for two and a half years.

Activists Zhang Baocheng and Li Wei each received two-year sentences.

The verdicts come after Beijing's high court upheld a four-year jail term given to movement founder Xu Zhiyong.

The New Citizens' Movement is a loose network of activists campaigning for government officials to disclose their wealth.

Mr Xu had appealed against his sentence for "gathering crowds to disrupt public order".

The four activists were charged with the same offence, Beijing's Haidian District People's Court said in a blog post.

Mr Zhang's lawyer, Ge Yongxi, told the AFP news agency that the ruling was "a warning and a threat".

"We think he's completely innocent; there is no legal basis for the court's ruling, and the punishment is too heavy," Mr Ge said.

The ruling Chinese Communist Party has repeatedly vowed to crack down on corruption - but the party has also tried critics and anti-corruption activists.

Human rights groups said the crackdown on the activists was part of a wider campaign against civil society by the government, despite President Xi Jinping's high-profile public campaign against corruption.

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