China anti-corruption activists on trial in Jiangxi
China has put three anti-corruption campaigners on trial, in what is being seen as part of a crackdown on activists under President Xi Jinping.
The trial of Liu Ping, Wei Zhongping and Li Sihua, activists associated with the New Citizens’ Movement, began in Xinyu, Jiangxi province, on Monday.
They were detained after taking photographs with banners urging officials to disclose their assets.
Mr Xi has called for a crackdown on corruption since taking office.
Ms Liu, Mr Wei and Mr Li were arrested in April.
They were initially detained for subversion, but the charge was later changed to illegal assembly, activists and lawyers say.
Zhang Xuezhong, one of Ms Liu’s lawyers, told Reuters news agency that “serious procedural problems” had been found in the case, and he was “not optimistic” about the trial.
Defence lawyer Pang Kun also told reporters that he had been detained by police on Sunday.
Tight security was in place for the trial, with lines of police blocking roads outside the court.
A number of Western diplomats who had attempted to attend the trial were blocked from entering the courthouse, AP news agency reported.
Since Xi Jinping took over the leadership of the Communist Party a year ago, his government has launched its own anti-corruption drive, the BBC’s Damian Grammaticas reports from outside the court in Xinyu.
But Mr Xi has also overseen the broadest crackdown China has seen in recent years, our correspondent adds.
Several activists in the New Citizens’ Movement, which calls for more democracy and government transparency, have been detained.
In July, prominent lawyer Xu Zhiyong, one of the founders of the movement, was detained on suspicion of having “gathered crowds to disrupt public order”.
Earlier in October, wealthy Chinese businessman Wang Gongquan, who is considered a key supporter of the movement, was also formally arrested on similar charges.
“Liu, Wei, and Li are canaries in the coal mine for how the government intends to treat this influential group of anti-corruption activists,” Sophie Richardson, China director of Human Rights Watch, said in a statement.
“Anything short of acquittal will seriously undermine the credibility of the government’s claims to be cracking down on corruption,” she added.