A third member of the movement, Zhao Changqing, is expected to go on trial Thursday. Zhao was a student leader during the 1989 pro-democracy protests at Tiananmen Square and previously served eight years in jail.
– ‘They are terrified’ –
The trials come three months after a Beijing court pronounced Xu Zhiyong, a founding member of the New Citizens Movement, guilty of “gathering crowds to disrupt public order”.
The 40-year-old Xu, a prominent legal activist, was sentenced to four years in jail.
Ding, Li and Zhao face similar charges and appeared in court in January. But the three men dismissed their lawyers in protest at the accusations against them, a move which triggered a delay to their trials.
As at previous trials of New Citizens Movement members, the heavy police presence deterred any organised demonstrations in support of the defendants.
Officers were checking IDs of passers-by outside the courthouse in northwest Beijing, and journalists were barred from approaching the building or lingering outside.
As the proceedings got underway, one protester yelled “Ding Jiaxi is innocent!” before quickly being bundled off by police, according to a European diplomat who declined to be named due to the sensitivity of the trial.
In an open letter published Sunday by the human rights website China Change, Ding revealed that he had been threatened and abused by his interrogators in a process reminiscent of the Cultural Revolution, China’s decade of political and cultural upheaval beginning in the mid-1960s.
“They are terrified of what we did,” Ding wrote. “They want to try us in order to warn the others. They want to tell the Chinese people, people living in China, that it is a crime to demand that officials disclose their assets.”
“In essence, this is anti anti-corruption,” he wrote.