Chinese Activist Sentenced To 4 Years In Prison For Protest

Forty-year-old Xu Zhiyong was sentenced to four years in prison for "gathering crowds to disrupt public order."

Chinese Activist Sentenced To 4 Years In Prison For Protest

A Beijing court has sentenced a Chinese legal activist to four years in prison for organizing a protest against the government.

The BBC reports the official charge against 40-year-old activist Xu Zhiyong is "gathering crowds to disrupt public order." The ruling came down just days after Xu's trial started last Wednesday.

Xu was arrested back in July and many speculate the government targeted him due to his "growing popularity." He has fought mainly for government transparency.

USA Today points out Xu didn't speak at his trial until the very end when he read a statement to the court. The judge reportedly interrupted Xu before he could finish, but Xu's attorney published his statement.

It reads in part: "The day will come when the 1.3 billion Chinese will stand up from their submissive state and grow to be proud and responsible citizens."

Making matters worse for Xu, the Los Angeles Times reports the court turned away almost 70 witnesses the defense had presented.

But so far, observers say the government doesn't plan on heeding Xu's advice.

Instead, The New York Times writes the case is "widely seen as a demonstration of the Communist Party leadership’s determination to quell any challenges to its hold on power."

Xu is just one of many government activists arrested in China during the last year. According to Bloomberg, there have been about 50 arrests since last March. (Via Bloomberg)

The BBC reports seven other members of an activist group Xu created are either on or awaiting trial on charges similar to Xu's.