|Trial of eight activists makes mockery of anti-corruption drive, says Amnesty
Amnesty International condemned the forthcoming trials of eight anti-corruption activists in China, calling them “hypocritical'' and saying they highlighted flaws in the ruling Communist Party's much-publicized anti-graft campaign.
Starting Wednesday with the case of Xu Zhiyong, one of China's most prominent current dissidents, the eight activists face possible five-year prison sentences in separate trials this week.
The activists are part of a loose-knit group referred to as the New Citizens Movement founded by Xu, a well-known lawyer and human rights campaigner, AFP reports.
They are being prosecuted over peaceful protests in which they held up banners calling for government officials in China to disclose their financial assets, seen by some as a reform which would combat corruption.
“Instead of President Xi Jinping's promised clampdown on corruption, we are seeing a crackdown against those that want to expose it,'' Roseann Rife, East Asia research director for London-based Amnesty International said in a statement headed “China: Hypocritical crackdown on anti-corruption campaigners.’’
Xu and the other activists are accused of “assembling a crowd to disrupt order in a public place'' for their role in the street protests.
“We consider Xu Zhiyong to be a prisoner of conscience and he should be released immediately and unconditionally,'' Rife said.
"Anything less would make a mockery of the Chinese government's ongoing anti-corruption efforts,'' said Rife. The activists were on trial "simply for exercising their rights to assembly and free speech'', she added.
The arrest of Xu, a trained lawyer and lecturer at a university in Beijing, has been condemned by the US and the EU.