China upholds jail terms for two anti-corruption activists

BEIJING (AFP) - A Chinese court on Friday upheld jail sentences for two anti-corruption activists, their lawyer said, cementing a crackdown on a burgeoning civil rights movement.

Beijing's intermediate court stood by a 31/2-year jail sentence handed to Ding Jiaxi, a well-known human rights lawyer, and a two-year sentence handed to activist Li Wei, their attorney Guo Haiyue told AFP.

China this year has jailed around 10 members of the New Citizens Movement, a loose network whose members held peaceful protests in Beijing last year calling for officials to disclose their assets as a measure against graft.

The two had appealed after being convicted of "gathering a crowd to disturb public order", a charge often used to detain protesters in China.

The court's decision was "mainly because of their participation in the New Citizens Movement", Mr Guo added.

China's ruling Communist Party has repeatedly vowed to combat rampant official corruption in the face of public anger over the issue.

But the party has cracked down on activists pursuing the same goals, viewing independently-organised groups as a challenge to its tight grip on power.

New Citizens Movement members have said the wave of arrests, which began last year, have heavily curbed their activities.

At its peak the group had an estimated several hundred regular participants, who organised dinner discussions across China and pushed for legal and educational reforms.

A founder of the movement, legal scholar Xu Zhiyong, was jailed for four years in January, while a court in the central province of Jiangxi last month sentenced three New Citizen activists to between three and 61/2 years in prison.

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