A Chinese court’s decision to reject an appeal by prominent activist Xu Zhiyong and uphold his four year jail sentence is an affront to justice, said Amnesty International.
A court in Beijing on Friday rejected Xu Zhiyong’s appeal against his conviction in January for “gathering a crowd to disturb order in a public place.”
“Today’s ruling makes a mockery of justice as the decision was a foregone conclusion. The shock would have been if the appeals court had overturned the guilty verdict. Instead of upholding freedom of expression and assembly, the court opted yet again to trample all over these fundamental rights,” said William Nee, China Researcher at Amnesty International.
“Xu Zhiyong is a prisoner of conscience and he should be released immediately and unconditionally. The authorities must end this merciless persecution of all those associated with the New Citizens Movement.”
The trial of two other activists linked to the New Citizens Movement began on Tuesday before being postponed after their lawyers walked out of the court in protest at what they perceived as unfair proceedings.
Ding Jiaxi and Li Wei were also charged with "gathering a crowd to disturb public order in a public space". Another activist, Zhao Changqing was tried on Thursday on the same charge.
Dozens of people linked to the New Citizens Movement – however tenuously – have been detained over the past year. Several of these activists have already been prosecuted simply for exercising their rights to assembly and free speech.
A highly regarded legal scholar, Xu Zhiyong, wrote an article in May 2012 titled China Needs a New Citizens Movement, which is credited with spurring a loose network of activists who aim to promote government transparency and expose corruption.
Suggested activities for “New Citizens” include: practicing “New Citizen Responsibility” by rejecting corruption and by doing good for society; participating in civic life by holding meetings to discuss the political situation; helping the weak; and uniting to share and coordinate work.