News / Asia

Trial Begins for Chinese Anti-Corruption Activists

FILE - A policeman guards the entrance of the Jinan Intermediate People's Court in Jinan, Shandong province, Aug. 26, 2013.
FILE - A policeman guards the entrance of the Jinan Intermediate People's Court in Jinan, Shandong province, Aug. 26, 2013.
VOA News
Three grass-roots activist faced trial in China on Monday on charges that human rights activists say were fabricated in an attempt to stop their campaign for more political accountability.
 
Liu Ping, Wei Zhongping and Li Sihua were charged with illegal assembly for a picture they took and uploaded online. In the photograph the three stood in front of a residential building holding banners calling for Chinese officials to disclose their assets. A week after taking the picture, the three were arrested.
 
Zhang Dejin, a fellow activist from Fujian province, says that authorities in the city of Xinyu - where the trial is held - are playing games with the law.
 
“Today they charge you with one thing, tomorrow they charge you with another," he said. "They do not treat people like people should be treated, and they are not upholding the law.”

The defendants have been active in the New Citizens' movement, a loosely organized group that advocates for more transparency and accountability in government policies. In recent months, more than a dozen participants have been detained and accused of disrupting social order with their activism. Among the people targeted are prominent rights lawyer Xu Zhiyong and wealthy Beijing entrepreneur Wang Gongquan.

Independent filmmaker and activist Ai Xiaoming said that Monday's trial is an attempt to intimidate the whole movement.

“They are establishing a precedent and starting punishing members of the New Citizens' Movement,” Ai said.

The movement has been calling on China's government to uphold the country's constitution and protect citizens' rights. One of the group's key demands is for high ranking officials disclose their wealth to the public.

China’s new leaders have emphasized strictly abiding by the constitution and sternly dealing with corruption. The Southern province Guangdong has launched pilot schemes of asset disclosure among its low-level administration. But despite the tough language from officials, transparency activists have reported increasing harassment.

Ai Xiaoming said that by suppressing citizens' advocacy, the party is ensuring that its grip on society remains firm.

“Having a one party rule is the easiest way to govern for them,” she said, “If you do not have people monitoring officials, then the advantages are all to benefit the interest groups in power.”

Defendant Liu Ping is a long time petitioner for labor rights in China. She started her activism after being laid off from the state-run steel factory where she had worked most of her life.

In 2011, she ran as an independent candidate for her district’s People's Congress. Low level elections are often touted by China's leadership as a sign of the government welcoming people's participation. Yet candidates that decide to run independently from the party, like Liu Ping, are harassed during campaigns and usually prevented from appearing on ballots.
 
Zhang Dejin also ran as an independent in Fujian, and he too was eventually removed from the list of candidates.
 
“We are just ordinary citizens,” Zhang said, “and as we try to participate in the People's Congress, we are stifled by authorities and cannot find opportunities.”
 
Liu Ping is also charged with "gathering a crowd to disturb order in a public place" and "using an evil cult to undermine the law".
 
Liu's lawyer Zhang Xuezhong said the latter charge is related to an online post that Liu wrote in August 2012 calling attention to the trial of a member of the spiritual group Falun Gong, which the Chinese government considers an illegal organization.
 
Activist Ai Xiaoming said the trio will most likely be found guilty, but their personal sacrifice will in fact help the cause.
 
“This trial will have the effect of increasing their influence: more people will take note of their names and will support them," she said.
 
If found guilty, the defendants face a maximum of five years in prison. It is rare for courts in China to find defendants in criminal cases innocent, and analysts believe this case will follow the pattern.
 
Fellow activists who travelled to Xinyu to show their support for the defendants have reportedly been followed, detained, and in some cases escorted back to their homes by police.

You May Like

Lesotho Faces New Round of Violence, Political Crisis

Brutal killing of military officer has sent former leaders back into S. Africa where they're watching anxiously as regional officials head in to try to restore peace More

Video US Diplomat Expects Adoption of Srebrenica Anniversary Resolution

Samantha Power says there's broad consensus about killings in Bosnia's war, but Russia calls resolution 'divisive,' backs countermeasure at UN More

UN Report Exposes Widespread Boko Haram Atrocities

Damning report graphically details pattern of vicious, widespread atrocities committed by Islamist militants More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Family of American Marine Calls for Release From Iranian Prisoni
X
Heather Murdock
July 01, 2015 8:59 PM
As the crowd of journalists covering the Iran talks swells, so too do the opportunities for media coverage.  Hoping to catch the attention of high-level diplomats, the family of American-Iranian marine Amir Hekmati is in Vienna, pleading for his release from an Iranian prison after nearly 4 years.  VOA’s Heather Murdock reports from Vienna.
Video

Video Family of American Marine Calls for Release From Iranian Prison

As the crowd of journalists covering the Iran talks swells, so too do the opportunities for media coverage.  Hoping to catch the attention of high-level diplomats, the family of American-Iranian marine Amir Hekmati is in Vienna, pleading for his release from an Iranian prison after nearly 4 years.  VOA’s Heather Murdock reports from Vienna.
Video

Video UK Holds Terror Drill as MPs Mull Tunisia Response

After pledging a tough response to last Friday’s terror attack in Tunisia, which came just days before the 10th anniversary of the bomb attacks on London’s transport network, British security services are shifting their focus to overseas counter-terror operations. VOA's Henry Ridgwell has more.
Video

Video Obama on Cuba: This is What Change Looks Like

President Barack Obama says the United States will soon reopen its embassy in Cuba for the first time since 1961, ending a half-century of isolation. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video Hate Groups Spread Influence Via Internet

Hate groups of various kinds are using the Internet for propaganda and recruitment, and a Jewish human rights organization that monitors these groups, the Simon Wiesenthal Center, says their influence is growing. The messages are different, but the calls to hatred or violence are similar. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports.
Video

Video US Silica Sand Mining Surge Worries Illinois Residents, Businesses

Increased domestic U.S. oil and gas production, thanks to advances known as “fracking,” has created a boom for other industries supporting that extraction. Demand for silica sand, used in fracking, could triple over the next five years. In the Midwest state of Illinois, people living near the mines are worried about how increased silica sand mining will affect their businesses and their health. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh has more in this first of a series of reports.
Video

Video Blind Somali Journalist Defies Odds in Mogadishu

Despite improving security in the last few years, Somalia remains one of the most dangerous countries to be a journalist – even more so for someone who cannot see. Abdulaziz Billow has the story of journalist Abdifatah Hassan Kalgacal, who has been reporting from the Somali capital for the last decade despite being blind.
Video

Video Texas Defies Same-Sex Marriage Ruling

Texas state officials have criticized the US Supreme Court decision giving same-sex couples the right to marry nationwide. The attorney general of Texas says last week's decision did not overrule constitutional "rights of religious liberty," and therefore officials performing wedding services can refuse to perform them for same-sex couples if it is against their religious beliefs. Zlatica Hoke reports on the controversy.
Video

Video Rabbi Hits Road to Heal Jewish-Muslim Relations in France

France is on high alert after last week's terrorist attack near the city Lyon, just six months after deadly Paris shootings. The attack have added new tensions to relations between French Jews and Muslims. France’s Jewish and Muslim communities also share a common heritage, though, and as far as one French rabbi is concerned, they are destined to be friends. From the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, Lisa Bryant reports about Rabbi Michel Serfaty and his friendship bus.
Video

Video Saudi Leaks Expose ‘Checkbook Diplomacy’ In Battle With Iran

Saudi Arabia’s willingness to wield its oil money on the global diplomatic stage appears to have been laid bare, after the website WikiLeaks published tens of thousands of leaked cables from Riyadh’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Nubians in Kenya Face Land Challenges

East Africa's ethnic Nubians have a rich cultural history that dates back thousands of years, but in Kenya they are facing hardships, including the loss of lands they have lived on for generations. They say the government has reneged on its pledge to award them title deeds for the plots. VOA's Lenny Ruvaga reports.
Video

Video Military Experts Question New Russian Tank Capabilities

Russia has been showing off its new tank design – the Armata T-14. Designers claim it is 20 years ahead of current Western designs - and driving it feels like playing a computer game. But military analysts question those assertions, and warn the cost could be too heavy a burden for Russia’s struggling economy. Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video In Kenya, Police Said to Shoot First, Ask Questions Later

An organization that documents torture and extrajudicial killings says Kenyan police were responsible for 1,252 shooting deaths in five cities, including Nairobi, between 2009 and 2014, representing 67 percent of all gun deaths in the areas reviewed. Gabe Joselow has more from Nairobi.

VOA Blogs