'Wednesday in the first of a rapid series of trials to punish numerous activists who tried to expose corruption and promote government transparency in China.
Both aims are stated goals of Communist Party leader Xi Jinping, but the trials this week of up to nine activists show that the non-elected rulers of the world's second-largest economy continue to abuse Chinese law to squash civil society, said legal experts and human rights groups.
In the first and most prominent case, Xu Zhiyong, 40, faces a five-year sentence for what his lawyers say are trumped-up charges meant to punish Xu for his expressed belief that one-party China should establish a liberal system of constitutional democracy.
All nine of the accused took part in small-scale protest gatherings under the umbrella of the New Citizens' Movement, a social initiative and loose network of activists founded by Xu in 2012. The protesters demanded that government officials disclose their assets as well as equal education rights for children of migrant workers.
State prosecutors have charged Xu and the others with "assembling a crowd to disrupt order in a public place."…
Xu scares Beijing because his ideas "encourage so many Chinese people to stand up to fight for their fundamental rights" both online and in real-world street protests, said Teng. "The central government feels a threat to the whole political system," he said.
Authorities "definitely censor the Internet for dissenting opinions, but they fear most that these protests were organized around the country, and centered on a theme (corruption) with great resonance in China," said Maya Wang, a Hong Kong-based researcher for Human Rights Watch.'