Legal activist Xu Zhiyong

A high court in China has upheld the four-year jail term given to prominent rights activist Xu Zhiyong. Mr Xu, the founder of a transparency movement, had appealed against a lower court’s decision to jail him for “gathering crowds to disrupt public order”. Several other activists from the New Citizens’ Movement have also been tried this year on similar charges. The group has campaigned for government officials to disclose their assets.
Mr Xu, who was arrested in July 2013, was convicted in January. “This absurd judgment cannot halt the tide of human progress,” Mr Xu was said to have told the court. London-based Amnesty International said Mr Xu’s conviction was a “mockery of justice”. “Xu Zhiyong is a prisoner of conscience and he should be released immediately and unconditionally,” China researcher William Nee said in a statement. “The authorities must end this merciless persecution of all those associated with the New Citizens’ Movement.” The US and the European Union have also condemned the sentence against Mr Xu.

Xu, a legal scholar, is the founder of the New Citizens’ Movement, a grass-roots organization which seeks to draw attention to matters of public discontent, including equal access to education and disclosure of Chinese officials’ personal assets to combat corruption.