BEIJING Jan 27 Four more Chinese activists went
on trial on Monday, accused of disturbing public order after
urging officials to reveal their assets, the latest in a string
of closely watched prosecutions of anti-graft campaigners.
The trials of members of the "New Citizens' Movement" have
sparked criticism from the West and rights groups, as evidence
of the ruling Chinese Communist Party's determination to crush
any challenge to its rule.
The government has waged a 10-month drive against the
movement, founded by Xu Zhiyong, one of China's most prominent
rights activists, who was jailed on Sunday for four years.
The four activists put on trial on Monday -- Ding Jiaxi, Li
Wei, Zhang Baocheng and Yuan Dong -- advocated working within
the system to press for change, including urging officials to
publish details of assets.
They were charged with "gathering a crowd to disturb public
order", which carries a maximum penalty of five years in prison.
"These individuals, and their prosecution, are part of a
pattern of arrests and detentions of public interest lawyers,
Internet activists, journalists, religious leaders and others
who challenge official Chinese policies and actions," said U.S.
diplomat Daniel Delk.
Delk, a second secretary at the U.S. embassy, urged China to
release the protesters immediately, lift curbs on their freedom
of movement, and guarantee them the protection and freedoms
ensured by the country's international human rights commitments.
Police accuse the activists of planning, organising, and
carrying out nearly 30 instances of "street political
activities", from displaying banners to making speeches urging
revelation of assets, according to a copy of Li's arrest notice.
Ding, a lawyer based in Beijing, the capital, was in charge
of "organising and overall coordination" of the movement, while
Li, who is unemployed, was "responsible for the collection of
information and dissemination of labour", the notice said.
Ding's trial was adjourned after he dismissed one of his
lawyers, Wang Xing, and another lawyer, Cheng Hai, voluntarily
withdrew his defence, because of improprieties in the judicial
proceedings, Cheng told Reuters by telephone.
Li's trial was also adjourned after he dismissed his two
lawyers, said one of them, Wang Quanzhang.
"From now on, at least the trial has stopped," Wang said.
"If we had continued, it would have been finished today and by
tomorrow, or within two days, there could be a sentence."
Ding and Li will both get 15 days to select new lawyers,
according to Cheng and Wang.
Court officials and police refused to let diplomats from
eight countries observe the trials on Monday, said Raphael
Droszewski, a first secretary at the European Union delegation
Officials turned away the European Union officials, and
American diplomats who arrived earlier were told there were not
enough seats, he added.
China has detained at least 20 campaigners for asset
disclosure by officials, though not all belong to the New
Two activists stood trial on Thursday in Beijing. Three went
on trial in December and face more than 10 years in prison if
Sunday's verdict against Xu is "what Chinese society needs,"
said the Global Times tabloid owned by Chinese Communist Party
mouthpiece The People's Daily.
"Chinese society hopes for stability and its maintenance of
a vigilant attitude towards various signs of social unrest is
universal," the newspaper said.
"The collective memory of the Cultural Revolution, as well
as the loss of control of 'street politics' in many countries in
recent years has left a strong impression, and has resulted in a
large majority of the Chinese public supporting the maintenance
of normal social order."
(Editing by Clarence Fernandez)