Skip to main content

China cracks down on media coverage as activist goes on trial

By Steven Jiang and Katie Hunt, CNN
January 23, 2014 -- Updated 0347 GMT (1147 HKT)
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • NEW Trial of Chinese anti-corruption activist Xu Zhiyong wraps up
  • Authorities came down hard on international media covering the trial
  • CNN correspondent says he was kicked, pushed and punched by Chinese security
  • Trial comes amid potentially embarrassing revelations about the wealth of China's elite

Beijing (CNN) -- The trial of a high-profile Chinese activist accused of organizing protests against official corruption wrapped up after a one-day hearing on Wednesday, his lawyer told CNN.

Prosecutors alleged that Xu Zhiyong "gathered a crowd to disturb public order" after a series of small protests when demonstrators unfurled banners in Beijing calling for officials to publicly declare their assets, lawyer Zhang Qingfang said.

Zhang added that said Xu could face up to five years in prison if he is found guilty.

The lawyer did not know when the verdict would be announced but said he assumed his client would be found guilty because of the political nature of the case.

Xu founded the New Citizens Movement, which calls for official transparency and rule of law.

In court, Xu tried to read a prepared statement highlighting the goals of the movement and declaring his innocence but was interrupted by the judge when he spoke about wanting top leaders to be transparent about their assets, his lawyer said.

"Calling on officials to reveal their assets was our effort to promote the country's anti-graft system," Xu said before being removed from the courtroom, according to his lawyer.

"More than 137 countries and regions in the world have established such systems, why can't China? What are those 'people's servants' afraid of?"

The trial has attracted widespread attention and authorities have come down hard on international media covering the case.

Author: Corruption hurt Communist Party
Corruption concerns Chinese officials

A CNN crew was prevented from approaching and filming the court house and CNN's Beijing correspondent, David McKenzie, was kicked, pushed and punched by Chinese security before being forced into a nearby van and driven away.

Embarrassing revelations

Xu's trial began amid new and potentially embarrassing revelations about the wealth of China's elite.

The International Consortium of Investigative Journalists reported that close relatives of China's top leaders own offshore companies in international tax havens.

The report said that confidential files showed that President Xi Jinping's brother-in-law and the son of former Premier Wen Jiabao had set up companies in the British Virgin Islands.

While not illegal, the findings shed light on the wealth of the country's leaders at a time when President Xi is intensifying his campaign against high-level corruption, the report said.

Groundbreaking causes

Xu was arrested on July 16 after spending more than three months under house arrest at his Beijing home.

A former law lecturer at the Beijing University of Posts and Telecommunications, Xu has a reputation for taking on groundbreaking legal causes.

He has campaigned for death row inmates and families effected by a poisoned milk formula scandal in 2009.

Searches for Xu's name and "constitutional rule" were blocked on Chinese microblogs and search engines.

In December, John Kerry, U.S. Secretary of State, appealed for Xu's release and that of other activists.

CNN's Beijing bureau contributed to this report

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
September 1, 2014 -- Updated 1208 GMT (2008 HKT)
Beijing says only candidates approved by a nominating committee can run for Hong Kong's chief executive, prompting criticism that it stifles democracy.
August 29, 2014 -- Updated 1914 GMT (0314 HKT)
China warns the United States to end its military surveillance flights near Chinese territory.
August 29, 2014 -- Updated 0312 GMT (1112 HKT)
China has produced elite national athletes but some argue the emphasis on winning discourages children. CNN's Kristie Lu Stout reports
August 19, 2014 -- Updated 0513 GMT (1313 HKT)
Chinese are turning to overseas personal shoppers to get their hands on luxury goods at lower prices.
August 15, 2014 -- Updated 0908 GMT (1708 HKT)
Experts say rapidly rising numbers of Christians are making it harder for authorities to control the religion's spread.
August 11, 2014 -- Updated 0452 GMT (1252 HKT)
"I'm proud of their moral standing," says Harvey Humphrey. His parents are accused of corporate crimes in China.
August 6, 2014 -- Updated 1942 GMT (0342 HKT)
A TV confession detailing a life of illegal gambling and paid-for sex has capped the dramatic fall of one of China's most high-profile social media celebrities.
July 31, 2014 -- Updated 0410 GMT (1210 HKT)
President Xi Jinping's campaign to punish corrupt Chinese officials has snared its biggest target -- where can the campaign go from here?
July 30, 2014 -- Updated 0712 GMT (1512 HKT)
All you need to know about the tainted meat produce that affects fast food restaurants across China, Hong Kong, and Japan.
July 18, 2014 -- Updated 0230 GMT (1030 HKT)
Some savvy individuals in China are claiming naming rights to valuable foreign brands. Here's how companies can combat them.
July 16, 2014 -- Updated 0911 GMT (1711 HKT)
Is the Chinese president a true reformist or merely a "dictator" in disguise? CNN's Beijing bureau chief Jaime FlorCruz dissects the leader's policies
July 8, 2014 -- Updated 0344 GMT (1144 HKT)
With a population of 1.3 billion, you'd think that there would be 11 people in China who are good enough to put up a fight on the football pitch.
July 7, 2014 -- Updated 1124 GMT (1924 HKT)
China's richest man, Wang Jianlin, may not yet be a household name outside of China, but that could be about to change.
July 3, 2014 -- Updated 2357 GMT (0757 HKT)
When President Xi Jinping arrives in Seoul this week, the Chinese leader will have passed over North Korea in favor of its arch rival.
July 1, 2014 -- Updated 0656 GMT (1456 HKT)
The push for democratic reform in Hong Kong is testing China's "one country, two systems" model.
ADVERTISEMENT