Ding Jiaxi and Li Wei appeared at a court in Beijing’s Haidian district, their lawyers said. Scores of uniformed and plain-clothes police were deployed in various locations around the building, with at least 20 police vehicles.
Both men are members of the New Citizens Movement, a loose-knit network of activists whose dinner discussions and small-scale protests calling for official disclosure of assets have drawn the anger of the authorities in Beijing.
China’s ruling Communist Party is in the midst of a highly-publicised anti-corruption campaign, which President Xi Jinping has pledged will target both high-ranking “tigers” and low-level “flies” in the face of public anger over the issue.
But the party has cracked down harshly on independent activists who have the same goals, viewing organised anti-corruption protests as a challenge to its rule.
Li’s lawyer Jiang Yuanmin said that while Beijing has touted its anti-graft efforts, the activists were being targeted by authorities who wish to keep their wealth hidden from public view.
“His behaviour does not constitute a crime,” he said of his client. “People like Ding Jiaxi and Li Wei, they just want government officials to report their assets.
“This goes against the interests of a vast majority of officials,” he added. “So the government is afraid.”
The trial is likely to take at least two days, Jiang said, as the court was not allowing the defence to call any witnesses and Ding’s lawyer refused to answer any of the court’s questions in protest.
Ding, 46, is a well-known human rights lawyer. Li, 42, was unemployed at the time of his arrest last May.