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Chinese Dissident Imprisoned for Anti-Graft Efforts

A Chinese court has sentenced a prominent legal scholar and rights activist to four years in prison after he called for officials to disclose their assets as part of an anti-graft campaign.

The Beijing intermediate court sentenced Xu Zhiyong on Sunday after finding him guilty of "gathering crowds to disrupt public order."

During his one-day trial last week, Xu stayed silent and did not defend himself.

Xu, a 40-year-old legal scholar, founded the grassroots New Citizens Movement, which supports democracy and the rule of law and has, as a goal, a crackdown on corrupt officials.

The U.S. State Department said in a statement that the Untied States is deeply disappointed by the conviction, and called on Chinese authorities to release Xu and other political prisoners immediately. The statement said the U.S. is concerned that Xu's prosecution is retribution for his public campaign to expose corruption.

Seven New Citizens Movement members have stood or are standing trial this month. Three others were tried in December, though verdicts have not been delivered.

Tuesday, China's Foreign Ministry responded to earlier criticisms of the trials, saying foreign countries should not interfere with China's internal issues.

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