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

    New EU Asylum Rules Could Boost Rightists

    New regulations will seek to correct EU failures in dealing with migrant crisis, most notably inability to get member states to absorb a total of 160,000 refugees

    More Political Turmoil Likely in Iraq as Iran Waits in the Wings

    Analysts warn that Tehran, even though it may not be engineering the Sadrist protests in Baghdad, is seeking to leverage its influence on its neighbor

    Goodbye Ketchup, Hello Sriracha!

    How immigrants are triggering a great transformation in American cuisine

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Tensions Rising Ahead of South China Sea Rulingi
    X
    May 03, 2016 5:16 PM
    As the Philippines awaits an international arbitration ruling on a challenge to China's claims to nearly all of the South China Sea, it is already becoming clear that regardless of which way the decision goes, the dispute is intensifying. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
    Video

    Video Tensions Rising Ahead of South China Sea Ruling

    As the Philippines awaits an international arbitration ruling on a challenge to China's claims to nearly all of the South China Sea, it is already becoming clear that regardless of which way the decision goes, the dispute is intensifying. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
    Video

    Video Painting Captures President Lincoln Assassination Aftermath

    A newly restored painting captures the moments following President Abraham Lincoln’s assassination in 1865. It was recently unveiled at Ford’s Theatre in Washington, where America’s 16th president was shot. It is the only known painting by an eyewitness that captures the horror of that fateful night. VOA’s Julie Taboh tells us more about the painting and what it took to restore it to its original condition.
    Video

    Video Elephant Summit Results in $5M in Pledges, Presidential Support

    Attended and supported by three African presidents, a three-day anti-poaching summit has concluded in Kenya, resulting in $5 million in pledges and a united message to the world that elephants are worth more alive than dead. The summit culminated at the Nairobi National Park with the largest ivory burn in history. VOA’s Jill Craig attended the summit and has this report about the outcomes.
    Video

    Video Displaced By War, Syrian Artist Finds Inspiration Abroad

    Saudi-born Syrian painter Mohammad Zaza is among the millions who fled their home for an uncertain future after Syria's civil war broke out. Since fleeing Syria, Zaza has lived in Lebanon, Egypt, Jordan and now Turkey where his latest exhibition, “Earth is Blue like an Orange,” opened in Istanbul. He spoke with VOA about how being displaced by the Syrian civil war has affected the country's artists.
    Video

    Video Ethiopia’s Drought Takes Toll on Children

    Ethiopia is dealing with its worst drought in decades, thanks to El Nino weather patterns. An estimated 10 million people urgently need food aid. Six million of them are children, whose development may be compromised without sufficient help, Marthe van der Wolf reports for VOA from the Metahara district.
    Video

    Video Little Havana - a Slice of Cuban Culture in Florida

    Hispanic culture permeates everything in Miami’s Little Havana area: elderly men playing dominoes as they discuss politics, cigar rollers deep at work, or Cuban exiles talking with presidential candidates at a Cuban coffee window. With the recent rapprochement between Cuba and United States, one can only expect stronger ties between South Florida and Cuba.
    Video

    Video California Republicans Weigh Presidential Choices Amid Protests

    Republican presidential candidates have been wooing local party leaders in California, a state that could be decisive in selecting the party's nominee for U.S. president. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports delegates to the California party convention have been evaluating choices, while front-runner Donald Trump drew hundreds of raucous protesters Friday.
    Video

    Video Kurdish Football Team Helps War-Torn City Cope

    With the conflict still raging across much of Turkey’s predominantly Kurdish southeast, between the rebel PKK and the Turkish state, many Kurds are trying to escape the turmoil by focusing on the success of their football team Amedspor in Diyarbakir. The club is increasingly becoming a symbol for Kurds, not only in Diyarbakir but beyond. Dorian Jones reports from southeast Turkey.
    Video

    Video ‘The Lights of Africa’ - Through the Eyes of 54 Artists

    An exhibition bringing together the work of 54 African artists, one from each country, is touring the continent after debuting at COP21 in Paris. Called "Lumières d'Afrique," the show centers on access to electricity and, more figuratively, ideas that enlighten. Emilie Iob reports from Abidjan, the exhibition's first stop.
    Video

    Video Florida’s Weeki Wachee ‘Mermaids’ Make a Splash

    Since 1947, ‘mermaids’ have fascinated tourists at central Florida’s Weeki Wachee Springs State Park with their fluid movements and synchronized ballet. Performing underwater has its challenges, including cold temperatures and a steady current, as VOA’s Lin Yang and Joseph Mok report.
    Video

    Video Somali, African Union Forces Face Resurgent Al-Shabab

    The Islamic State terror group claimed its first attack in Somalia earlier this week, though the claim has not been verified by forces on the ground. Meanwhile, al-Shabab militants have stepped up their attacks as Somalia prepares for elections later this year. Henry Ridgwell reports there are growing frustrations among Somalia’s Western backers over the country’s slow progress in forming its own armed forces to establish security after 25 years of chaos.
    Video

    Video Nigerians Feel Bite of Buhari Economic Policy

    Despite the global drop in the price of oil, Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari has refused to allow the country's currency to devalue, leading to a shortage of foreign exchange. Chris Stein reports from Lagos businessmen and consumers are feeling the impact as the country deals with a severe fuel shortage.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora