[JURIST] A Chinese court on Friday convicted activists with ties to the New Citizens Movement [advocacy website, in Chinese; WSJ backgrounder] on the grounds of gathering a mob to disturb the public. The New Citizens Movement is a grass-roots organization which seeks to draw attention to matters of public concern, including equal access to education and disclosure of Chinese officials' personal assets, in order to combat public corruption. Four human rights lawyers were all sentenced to at least two years in jail for their advocacy. Rights groups condemned the convictions as an effort to suppress dissent and anti-corruption activists. The founder of the New Citizens Movement, Xu Zhiyong [JURIST news archive], has been serving a prison sentence while attempting to appeal the same conviction.
The detainment of anti-corruption activists has been a recurrent human rights issue in China. Last week the Beijing Supreme People's Court denied [JURIST report] Xu's appeal, inciting harsh criticism from rights groups. Xu was formally indicted in December, after Beijing prosecutors received a letter from Chinese police officials urging [JURIST reports] the government to bring charges against Xu in early December. Last August Chinese writer, lawyer and human rights advocate Yang Maodong, commonly known by his pen name Guo Feixiong [HRIC profile], became the second leader, following Xu, of the New Citizens movement to be arrested [JURIST report] on suspicion of disrupting the peace.