Trials Continue for Chinese Anti-Corruption Activists
China is continuing the high-profile political trials of activists associated with the grassroots New Citizens Movement, which the government has cracked down on as part of its effort to crush its domestic critics.
Zhao Changqing and Hou Xin are set to stand trial Thursday in a Beijing court. They are charged with "disturbing public order" by organizing small groups that called for education equality and for officials to disclose their assets.
International observers, including several foreign diplomats, were barred from attending the hearings. Journalists were also kept away by police and plain-clothed officers, who have harassed those trying to broadcast near the proceedings.
Zhao's lawyer, Zhang Xuezhong, called the trial "fundamentally illegal." But he says his client does not regret his advocacy work.
On Wednesday, New Citizens Movement founder Xu Zhiyong refused to defend himself in court, staying silent in protest of what he considers an unfair trial.
The activists will almost certainly be found guilty, since China's state-controlled courts almost never rule in favor of the defendant, especially in politically-motivated cases. If convicted, they face up to five years in jail.
Mediator Brahimi to Meet Separately with Warring Syrian Sides
U.N.-Arab League peace envoy Lakhdar Brahimi is due to meet Thursday in Geneva with representatives of the Syrian government and opposition, as he tries to mediate an end to nearly three years of deadly violence.
Brahimi will meet separately with each side and discuss how to proceed to the next step of direct negotiations. Those talks were scheduled to begin Friday, but Brahimi said Wednesday after the opening of a long-awaited peace conference that the separate meetings may continue.
He also said there are "fairly clear indications" that the government and opposition are prepared to talk about humanitarian access, freeing prisoners and establishing local cease-fires.
The first day of the peace effort brought together more than 40 delegations to the Swiss city of Montreux, and was marked by a sharp divide over President Bashar al-Assad's future in Syria.