A founder of an amorphous movement seeking to end the country's one-party rule went on trial yesterday amid tight security in Guangzhou, facing charges of disrupting public order.
The trial of Liu Yuandong , of the Southern Street movement, is part of a wider crackdown by Beijing on any form of social activism that may threaten the ruling Communist Party's grip on power.
Earlier this week, two members of the New Citizen movement - including its founder Xu Zhiyong - also faced the same charge in separate courts in Beijing. A verdict in Xu's case is expected to be delivered tomorrow, and his lawyer said a guilty conviction was all but guaranteed. "We can say it was decided even before the trial," lawyer Zhang Qingfang said.
The New Citizen movement seeks better accountability of government officials and equal opportunities in education, but Beijing is wary that it may develop into a social force that can erode Communist Party rule at the grass-roots level.
In southern provinces, activists have initiated a similar movement with similar demands, though the Southern Street movement has openly called for an end to the one-party rule.
Liu and others in the movement have encouraged people to gather in public streets to hold placards calling for democracy or and an end to the one-party rule or to champion other causes.
The movement gained public attention last January when its activists rallied to support the newspaper Southern Weekly, whose journalists protested overbearing censorship after party officials altered the paper's New Year's message without the usual consultation with editors.
The Southern Street movement hax purposely kept itself shapeless and without an agenda or leadership, said Wang Aizhong, one of the movement's founders who was slated to testify for Liu yesterday. "The government has zero tolerance towards organisation, so we make it unstructured to seek some room for growth," Wang said.