BEIJING (AP) — Four members of a grassroots movement seeking to curb corruption among Chinese officials and boost fairness in education stood trial on charges of disrupting public order on Monday, a day after the group’s founder was sentenced to prison.
The prosecutions against members of the New Citizens Movement reflect the leadership’s wariness of any group that could generate enough momentum to challenge its one-party rule.
Group founder and legal scholar Xu Zhiyong was sentenced Sunday to four years in prison on the charge of disturbing order in public places. Xu’s fledgling campaign became a target after it inspired people across the country to gather for dinner parties to discuss social issues and occasionally to unfurl banners in public places in small rallies.
The four who appeared in court Monday were Zhang Baocheng, Yuan Dong, Ding Jiaxi and Li Wei. The lawyer for two of the men, Chen Jiangang, said they had “no chance to express their views, their opinions” during the morning’s hearing.
The prosecutions come amid the Chinese leadership’s broader crackdown over the past year on dissent, including the silencing and detentions of influential bloggers and advocates for minority rights in Tibetan and Muslim Uighur areas.
On Sunday night, a well-known Beijing-based activist and a supporter of the New Citizens movement, Hu Jia, was taken away by police on suspicion of causing disturbances, his lawyer Mo Shaoping said Monday.