Four members of a grassroots movement campaigning to root out corrupt Chinese officials have gone on trial, a day after the group's founder was sentenced to prison.
The four members of the New Citizen's Movement appeared in a Beijing court Monday, charged with "gathering crowds to disrupt order."
A U.S. embassy official in Beijing called on the Chinese government to release the activists immediately, and "remove restrictions" on freedoms "to which they are entitled under China's international human rights commitments."
The group's founder, prominent legal scholar and rights activist Xu Zhiyong, was sentenced to four years in prison Sunday, convicted of the same charge.
Xu, a 40-year-old legal scholar, founded the grassroots New Citizens Movement. The group supports democracy and the rule of law, and has the stated goal of cracking down on corrupt officials.
The U.S. State Department said in a statement Sunday that the United 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.
China's Foreign Ministry responded last Tuesday to earlier criticisms of the trials, saying foreign countries should not interfere with China's internal issues.