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China Sentences Four Activists on Disturbing Public Order Charge

China sentenced four activists linked to a movement that sought to promote citizens’ rights to jail for disturbing the public order, a court in Beijing said.

Ding Jiaxi was sentenced to three and a half years in prison, the longest sentence of the group, a court in Beijing’s Haidian district said today on its official Weibo account. Li Wei was given two years, while in two separate cases Zhao Changqing and Zhang Baocheng got two and half years and two years respectively, it said.

The activists have ties to the New Citizens Movement, a group spearheaded by legal scholar Xu Zhiyong that calls on officials to disclose their assets. The movement, a loose alliance of activists, also seeks to promote the rule of law and democracy.

Xu was sentenced to four years in prison in January, the most prominent activist jailed since Nobel Peace Prize winner Liu Xiaobo in 2009, and a Beijing court on April 11 rejected Xu’s appeal of his sentence. Ding and Zhao were both detained in April 2013 and arrested a month later, according to Chinese Human Rights Defenders, a rights monitoring group.

While President Xi Jinping has overseen a campaign against corruption that led to the arrest of officials in the government, business and the military, the ruling Communist Party has also sought to check the activities of online commentators and arrested microbloggers on charges of spreading false rumors. China’s government censors its Internet heavily, blocking websites such as Facebook and deleting postings on Weibo that it deems a threat to social stability.

Blogger Qin Zhihui, 30, was found guilty yesterday of spreading rumors and sentenced to three years in jail, under a new legal interpretation that allows charges against those whose online comments are deemed defamatory. Qin was found guilty of spreading rumors about several celebrities and for posting that foreign victims from a deadly high-speed train crash in 2011 got more compensation than Chinese, the official Xinhua News Agency said.

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