BEIJING - A court in eastern China sentenced three anti-corruption activists to prison on Thursday, even as the country’s government cracked down on crooked officials.
A district court in the city of Xinyu in Jiangxi province gave Liu Ping and Wei Zhongping six-and-a-half years each, according to a court verdict dated June 18 delivered to their families Thursday and seen by NBC News. Colleague Li Sihua was sentenced to three years.
Liu and Wei were found guilty of "picking fights," "disrupting public order" and "using an evil cult to undermine law enforcement." Li was charged of "disrupting public order." The telephone operator at the Xinyu courthouse hung up on NBC News when it called for details and clarification.
The three are associated with the New Citizens Movement, a loose grouping of activists calling for officials to disclose their wealth and campaigning for the rights of rural children to receive an education. The movement’s founder, Xu Zhiyong, was jailed for four-and-a-half years in January.
"We will always support her, and our entire family will always love her,” Liu Ping’s daughter told NBC News.
In an earlier open letter circulating in China’s social media, the daughter Liao Minyue decried the verdict as “not only a tragedy for the three, but also a tragedy for their three families and for the rule of law in China.”
“This is definitely a political persecution. What they have done is only tell the truth and do the right thing,” Wei Zhongping’s brother, who did not wish to be named, told NBC News. “Without their efforts, the corruption in China will become more serious.”
Meanwhile, China’s unprecedented anti-corruption campaign last year reportedly netted over 180,000 corrupt and abusive officials.