China Jails Another Anti-Graft Activist

2014-01-29
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An undated file photo of members of the New Citizens' Movement in Beijing holding a banner calling on officials to disclose their assets.
An undated file photo of members of the New Citizens' Movement in Beijing holding a banner calling on officials to disclose their assets.
EYEPRESS NEWS

Authorities in Beijing on Wednesday sentenced a second activist who called on ruling Chinese Communist Party leaders to reveal their assets to a one-year jail term on public order charges.

Yuan Dong, who stood trial on Monday alongside fellow New Citizens' Movement members Ding Jiaxi, Li Wei, and Zhang Baocheng, was convicted for "gathering a crowd to disrupt public order," the Haidian District People's Court said on Wednesday.

Their trials came a day after the sentencing of prominent dissident Xu Zhiyong, a co-founder of the New Citizens' Movement, to four years' imprisonment on the same charges.

Yuan's lawyer Chang Boyang said his client should have been found not guilty and released, and that the charges against him were politically motivated.

"The prosecution really hadn't a shred of evidence to prove that Yuan Dong was guilty of any crime," Chang said after the verdict and sentence were announced. "These were trumped-up charges, which trample on the law."

He said Yuan's sentence was much lighter than Xu's because he was seen by the government as a camp follower with far less influence than the movement's co-founder.

He said Yuan had already accepted that the likelihood of a "not guilty" verdict was remote.

"But he said if he was found guilty, that he would appeal immediately," said Chang, who recently spoke with Yuan on a visit to the detention center where he is being held.

Wife 'uneasy' over sentence

Meanwhile, Yuan Dong's wife, Zhu Yachun, said she was "very uneasy" about the sentence.

"Basically this means he will be locked up for another 10 months," Zhu said.

"It's nearly Spring Festival, and we won't have the family to celebrate together," she added, using the Communist Party's preferred term for Chinese New Year.

"In court, I told Yuan Dong to start the appeal process as soon as possible," she added. "We will definitely appeal. But then the court police took me away after a very quick exchange."

Chang said Yuan hadn't received a fair trial, because both he and his lawyer were repeatedly cut short by judges as they tried to make their arguments for the defense.

"There were a lot of points that we were unable to make, and his summing up statement was also interfered with," he said. "There were lots of breaches of legal procedure."

"But [Yuan] was able to put out his statement, via his wife, on the Internet."

In it, Yuan said that he had been moved to act by official corruption, and by the need for transparency around official assets.

He called the recent string of trials "a triumph of party power and official power over people power," and called on the government not to treat its own citizens as enemies.

Hou Xin fined

On the same day, Beijing authorities issued a fine to another New Citizens Movement activist, Hou Xin, who was tried alongside fellow activist Zhao Changqing for the same offense last Thursday.

Hou, who was released after paying a fine, said she was surprised not to have been sent to prison.

"I hadn't expected this," she told RFA following her release on Wednesday. "I thought that because Xu Zhiyong had been sentenced to prison, that I would go to jail too."

"I think perhaps the government is showing signs of progress, which is a limited improvement, and probably the result of public pressure from its citizens," she said.

Earlier, Hou released a statement online saying she was innocent of all charges.

She also called on the government to allow its citizens the freedoms of expression, publication and association which are enshrined in China's constitution.

Anti-corruption campaign

Since taking office in March, China's President Xi Jinping has demanded officials cut down on waste and extravagance and get closer to the people, as part of a broader campaign against corruption.

Xi has warned that the party must beat graft in order to survive, and has launched a campaign targeting powerful "tigers" as well as lowly "flies."

But rights groups say dozens of activists who called on high-ranking officials to reveal details of their wealth have been detained in recent months.

Experts say the recent trials of anti-corruption activists is a clear indication of a worsening climate for political debate and rights activism in China.

Xu is China's highest-profile dissident to be sentenced to jail since 2009, when Nobel laureate Liu Xiaobo was jailed for 11 years for subversion after co-authoring "Charter 08," a document that called for sweeping changes to the current system under the Chinese Communist Party.

He was detained in July after organizing street protests in March that called on Chinese leaders to reveal details of their assets and those of their families.

Xu's conviction came four days after a U.S.-based journalism group released a report linking relatives of President Xi Jinping and other party leaders to offshore companies in the British Virgin Islands and other tax havens.

Reported by Xin Lin for RFA's Mandarin Service and by Wen Yuqing for the Cantonese Service. Translated and written in English by Luisetta Mudie.

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