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

    US-Russia Tensions Complicate Syria War

    With a shared enemy and opposing allies, Russia and the US are working to avoid confrontation

    Video Re-opening Old Wounds in Beirut's Bullet-riddled Yellow House

    Built in neo-Ottoman style in 1920s, it is set to be re-opened in Sept. as ‘memory museum’ - bullet-riddled walls and bunkered positions overlooking city’s notorious ‘Green Line’ maintained for posterity

    Cambodian-Americans Lobby for Human Rights Resolution

    Resolution condemns all forms of political violence in Cambodia, urges Cambodian government to end human rights violations, calls for respect of press freedom

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Brexit Vote Plunges Global Markets Into Uncharted Territoryi
    X
    June 24, 2016 9:38 PM
    British voters plunged global markets into unknown territory after they voted Thursday to leave the European Union. The results of the Brexit vote, the term coined to describe the referendum, caught many off guard. Analysts say the resulting volatility could last for weeks, perhaps longer. Mil Arcega reports.
    Video

    Video Brexit Vote Plunges Global Markets Into Uncharted Territory

    British voters plunged global markets into unknown territory after they voted Thursday to leave the European Union. The results of the Brexit vote, the term coined to describe the referendum, caught many off guard. Analysts say the resulting volatility could last for weeks, perhaps longer. Mil Arcega reports.
    Video

    Video Orlando Shooting Changes Debate on Gun Control

    It’s been nearly two weeks since the largest mass shooting ever in the United States. Despite public calls for tighter gun control laws, Congress is at an impasse. Democratic lawmakers resorted to a 1960s civil rights tactic to portray their frustration. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti explains how the Orlando, Florida shooting is changing the debate.
    Video

    Video Tunisian Fishing Town Searches for Jobs, Local Development Solutions

    As the European Union tries to come to grips with its migrant crisis, some newcomers are leaving voluntarily. But those returning to their home countries face an uncertain future.  Five years after Tunisia's revolution, the tiny North African country is struggling with unrest, soaring unemployment and plummeting growth. From the southern Tunisian fishing town of Zarzis, Lisa Bryant takes a look for VOA at a search for local solutions.
    Video

    Video 'American Troops' in Russia Despite Tensions

    Historic battle re-enactment is a niche hobby with a fair number of adherents in Russia where past military victories are played-up by the Kremlin as a show of national strength. But, one group of World War II re-enactors in Moscow has the rare distinction of choosing to play western ally troops. VOA's Daniel Schearf explains.
    Video

    Video Experts: Very Few Killed in US Gun Violence Are Victims of Mass Shootings

    The deadly shooting at a Florida nightclub has reignited the debate in the U.S. over gun control. Although Congress doesn't provide government health agencies funds to study gun violence, public health experts say private research has helped them learn some things about the issue. VOA's Carol Pearson reports.
    Video

    Video Trump Unleashes Broadside Against Clinton to Try to Ease GOP Doubts

    Recent public opinion polls show Republican Donald Trump slipping behind Democrat Hillary Clinton in the presidential election matchup for November. Trump trails her both in fundraising and campaign organization, but he's intensifying his attacks on the former secretary of state. VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone reports.
    Video

    Video Muslim American Mayor Calls for Tolerance

    Syrian-born Mohamed Khairullah describes himself as "an American mayor who happens to be Muslim." As the three-term mayor of Prospect Park, New Jersey, he believes his town of 6,000 is an example of how ethnicity and religious beliefs should not determine a community's leadership. Ramon Taylor has this report from Prospect Park.
    Video

    Video Internal Rifts Over Syria Policy Could Be Headache for Next US President

    With the Obama administration showing little outward enthusiasm for adopting a more robust Syria policy, there is a strong likelihood that the internal discontent expressed by State Department employees will roll over to the next administration. VOA State Department correspondent Pam Dockins reports.
    Video

    Video Senegal to Park Colorful ‘Cars Rapide’ Permanently

    Brightly painted cars rapide are a hallmark of Dakar, offering residents a cheap way to get around the capital city since 1976. But the privately owned minibuses are scheduled to be parked for good in late 2018, as Ricci Shryock reports for VOA.
    Video

    Video Florida Gets $1 Million in Emergency Government Funding for Orlando

    The U.S. government has granted $1 million in emergency funding to the state of Florida to cover the costs linked to the June 12 massacre in Orlando. U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch announced the grant Tuesday in Orlando, where she met with survivors of the shooting attack that killed 49 people. Zlatica Hoke reports.
    Video

    Video How to Print Impossible Shapes with Metal

    3-D printing with metals is rapidly becoming more advanced. As printers become more affordable, the industry is partnering with universities to refine processes for manufacturing previously impossible things. A new 3-D printing lab aims to bring the new technology closer to everyday use. VOA's George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Big Somali Community in Minnesota Observes Muslim Religious Feast

    Ramadan is widely observed in the north central US state of Minnesota, which a large Muslim community calls home. VOA Somali service reporter Mohmud Masadde files this report from Minneapolis, the state's biggest city.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora