China court sentences Xu Zhiyong to four years in jail

Media caption,
BBC's Celia Hatton: "Some say that dozens have been arrested in connection with Mr Xu Zhiyong's movement"

A Chinese court has sentenced prominent human rights activist Xu Zhiyong to four years in prison.

Xu, who campaigned for children's rights and against corruption, was convicted of "gathering crowds to disrupt public order".

Several other activists from a transparency movement are facing similar charges.

Rights groups have criticised President Xi Jinping - who pledged to fight corruption - over their cases.

Xu was arrested in July 2013 and the trial began on Wednesday.

Reacting to the verdict, Xu's lawyer Zhang Qingfang said his client had told the court that "the last shred of dignity of China's rule of law" had been destroyed.

Tainted milk scandal

Xu, who was also previously under house arrest, is a leading member of a group calling for officials to reveal their wealth.

He has also campaigned in behalf of inmates on death row and families affected by tainted baby milk formula, among other causes.

Many across China believe Xu was targeted by the government because of his rising popularity and his growing presence on Chinese social media platforms, says the BBC's Celia Hatton in Beijing.

In 2009 he was arrested on tax evasion charges that were eventually dropped after a public outcry.

Image source, Reuters
Image caption,
Hu Jia has previously served a prison term for sedition

Seven members of his informal grassroots group, New Citizens' Movement, also are also facing separate trials on similar charges.

Another prominent rights activist, Hu Jia, tweeted on Sunday that he was being taken into police custody.

Hu, whose campaigns include HIV/Aids and environmental issues, served a three-year prison term for sedition. He was released in June 2011.

He tweeted that he believed he was being detained because of the online support he had extended to other dissidents who were recently entangled in China's legal system.