Activists demanding disclosure of Communist Party bosses' assets formally arrested
Trio demanding that Communist Party top brass come clean on assets face possible charges lawyer says are linked to New Citizen group ties
Three activists who staged a protest in Beijing urging senior Communist Party officials to disclose their family assets have been formally arrested after being held for more than a month, one of their lawyers said yesterday.
Liang Xiaojun said that on Tuesday night, police told Yuan Dong , Zhang Baocheng and Ma Xinli - held since the March 31 protest - that prosecutors had approved their formal arrest on charges of "illegal gathering".
A fourth activist, Hou Xin, was released on bail because of a heart condition.
A formal arrest indicates the start of a police investigation that could last for up to two months, before prosecutors decide whether to take it to court.
The four held up banners in central Beijing's Xidan Culture Square, calling on officials to disclose their family assets. One of them made a 10-minute speech before police took them away.
Liang said the peaceful protest did not amount to an illegal gathering or social disturbance. When police intervened, they swiftly took down their banners and did not struggle when being taken away, he said.
Liang said their arrests were politically motivated and connected with their involvement in the New Citizen social movement - an initiative started by legal scholar Xu Zhiyong to push for democracy and basic civil rights.
Six other campaigners - rights lawyer Ding Jiaxi and activists Zhao Changqing , Sun Hanhui , Wang Yonghong , Li Wei and Qi Yueying - have also been held since last month.
Campaigners have been calling since December for citizens to join an online petition to demand that the 205 members of the Communist Party's Central Committee - the most politically powerful people on the mainland - disclose their family wealth.
Since Xi Jinping was made party leader in November, he has repeatedly vowed to deal with corruption harshly and to firmly rein in official power.
The campaigners' open letter says financial disclosure is a necessary step in the fight against corruption.
Maya Wang, a researcher at Human Rights Watch, said their arrests "show how Xi Jinping's pledge to fight graft is no more than mere propaganda, devoid of real substance".