06/19/2014, 00.00
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Three anti-corruption activists from the New Citizens Movement convicted

by Wang Zhicheng
Arrested last year for carrying banners demanding Chinese Communist Party leaders disclose their wealth, they are part of the New Citizens Movement, which includes members from Falun Gong and Protestant Christians. Beijing fears the growing convergence of civil society activism and religious groups.

Beijing (AsiaNews) - Three activists from the New Citizens Movement, which has been trying to expose corruption within the Communist Party, were convicted today.

Liu Ping and Wei Zhongping were sentenced to six and a half years in jail. Li Sihua was sentenced to three years (pictured). All three were arrested last year for carrying banners urging officials to disclose their wealth.

All they were sentenced for "creating a disturbance" on the basis of a picture in which they are seen carrying a banner. Liu and Wei were also found guilty of "gathering a crowd to disrupt public order in a public space" and "using an evil cult to undermine law enforcement".

The latter charge is related to the fact that Liu and Wei are members of Falun Gong, a religious group persecuted in China.

Several members of the movement, who were arrested earlier this year, belong instead to an unofficial Protestant community, the Community of the Holy Love (Sheng You Tuanqi), which includes many people from the capital who have submitted petitions over past injustices.

The New Citizens Movement has been led by Xu Zhiyong, 42, lecturer at the Beijing University of Post and Telecommunications.

Xu has long been involved in defending the human rights of the Chinese people, insisting that the government respect the constitution.

He was sentenced to four years in prison for daring to ask Chinese leaders make public their assets and financial interests.

After he came into office, President Xi Jinping launched an anti-corruption campaign, which conceals however a showdown between different party factions.

Within China's leadership, there have been calls for transparency with regards to party leaders' assets, including from people like former President Hu Jintao, to little avail.

However, the Party has never allowed grassroots and civil society groups to become an organised anti-corruption movement.

Indeed, it appears to get panicky at the prospect of any convergence between civic movements and religious groups.

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