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Chinese Dissidents Face Jail for Dinner Party Photo

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Posted on Jul 16, 2013
AP/Wang Zhao

Chinese President Xi Jinping gives a speech during a joint declaration ceremony with South Korea in June.

Three Chinese activists agitating for officials to make public the value of their wealth and assets will be put on trial in a “co-ordinated crackdown” that makes the limitations of an “anti-corruption push by the new government” plain, according to a Reuters report in The Guardian on Tuesday.

In recent months, China has arrested and held at least 15 dissidents who were involved in a campaign to compel officials to publicly disclose their wealth. Rights groups say it could be the beginning of a new campaign of reprisals against activists.

The activists detained in April on charges of illegal assembly are Liu Ping, Li Sihua and Wei Zhongping. They face a maximum of five years in prison if convicted.

Li Sihua’s lawyer said the three were being charged for taking a photo of themselves at a meal.

“Their actions were very simple—a few people gathered to eat a meal and then they took a photograph,” the lawyer told Reuters by telephone. “This doesn’t constitute an assembly.”

The defense said the charge of illegal assembly requires authorities to disperse the group, which did not happen in the activists’ case.

—Posted by Alexander Reed Kelly.

Reuters via The Guardian:

The ascendancy of Xi Jinping as Communist party chief in a once-in-a-decade generational leadership transition last November had given many Chinese hope for political reform.

But the charges against the activists are a strong indication that the Communist party will not tolerate any open challenge to its rule under Xi, even as it claims more transparency.

Xi, who became president in March, has called for a crackdown on corruption, warning, as many have before him, that the problem is so severe it could threaten the party’s survival.

Encouraged by Xi’s calls for more transparency, the activists took photographs of themselves holding banners that said: “Strongly urge officials to disclose their assets” and “Xi Jinping, immediately end dictatorship”.

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