US ‘disappointed’ by Chinese human rights advocate’s conviction

The State Department on Sunday criticized the conviction of Xu Zhiyong, a Chinese legal scholar and human rights advocate.

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Spokesperson Jen Psaki said in a statement that the U.S. is “deeply disappointed.”

Xu, who was charged with “gathering a crowd to disturb order in a public place,” was sentenced to four years in prison, she said.

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, the BBC reported.

Psaki described Xu, who has been detained by Chinese authorities since last July, as a “leading public advocate for fiscal transparency and fighting official corruption.”

“We are concerned that Mr. Xu’s prosecution is retribution for his public campaign to expose corruption and for the peaceful expression of his views,” she said.

“We call on Chinese authorities to release Xu and other political prisoners immediately, cease restrictions on their freedom of movement, and guarantee them the protections and freedoms to which they are entitled under China's international human rights commitments,” Psaki added.