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Prominent Chinese activist defiant as jail term upheld

Source: Reuters - Fri, 11 Apr 2014 02:47 GMT
Author: Reuters
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By Sui-Lee Wee

BEIJING, April 11 (Reuters) - A prominent Chinese rights activist expressed defiance on Friday after a court upheld his four-year jail sentence, saying the pall of communism and dictatorship would eventually give way to freedom and justice.

Although the ruling had been expected, as China's courts are controlled by the Communist Party and almost never rule in favour of dissidents, the decision is likely to renew an outcry by the United States, the European Union and rights groups.

Activist Xu Zhiyong's lawyer said an appeal to the Beijing Municipal High People's Court had been rejected.

"The appeal verdict was within our expectations," the lawyer, Zhang Qingfang, told Reuters.

"When (the judge) was announcing the reasons for rejecting Xu Zhiyong's appeal, those reasons and viewpoints were extremely ridiculous," Zhang added.

He quoted Xu as telling the court: "This ridiculous judgment cannot hold back the tide of human progress. The haze of the communist dictatorship must eventually lift and the light of freedom, fairness, justice and love will eventually fill China".

Xu was jailed in January after being found guilty of "gathering a crowd to disturb public order".

Rights advocates have said Xu's case is a warning to activists that the Chinese Communist Party will crush any challenge to its rule, especially from those who seek to organise campaigns.

The government has waged a year-long drive against Xu's "New Citizens' Movement", which advocates working within the system to press for change. Hundreds of citizens have participated in activities related to the movement, rights activists say.

Through his online essays and account on social media site Twitter, Xu pushed for officials to disclose assets and fought for the rights of children from rural areas to be educated in cities, where many live with their migrant worker parents.

His calls encouraged several activists to assemble and unfurl banners in public places.

China has detained at least 20 activists involved in pressing for asset disclosure by officials, although not all are from the New Citizens' Movement.

Three activists stood trial this week in Beijing and two were convicted in January.

While President Xi Jinping has made battling corruption a priority, authorities have shown no sign of agreeing to demands for such disclosures by all officials.

Wary of any organised challenge to the Chinese Communist Party's rule, Xi's administration has ratcheted up pressure on dissent. It has clamped down on critics on the Internet and tightened curbs on journalists.

(Editing by Ben Blanchard and Clarence Fernandez)

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