BEIJING - A prominent Chinese legal activist defiantly denounced a court as "absurd" on Friday as it upheld his jail sentence for supporting anti-corruption protests, his lawyer said.
Xu Zhiyong, 40, was sentenced to four years in prison in January for backing demonstrations in which a handful of activists held up banners calling for government officials to disclose their assets, as Beijing cracks down on a burgeoning rights movement.
Beijing's high court rejected his appeal and upheld its original verdict, his lawyer Zhang Qingfang told AFP, but his client remained resolute.
"This absurd judgment cannot halt the tide of human progress," he said Xu told the court. "The communist dictatorship is bound to disperse like haze, and the light of freedom and justice will illuminate the East." The legal scholar is a founder and central figure in the New Citizens Movement, a loose-knit network which campaigns on corruption, access to education and other issues.
China has put Xu and 10 other members of the movement on trial this year on charges of "gathering a crowd to disturb public order" over the protests in 2013.
"This is absolutely an illegal and ridiculous decision," Zhang said of the appeal ruling.
London-based human rights group Amnesty International said it was a "mockery of justice".
"Xu Zhiyong is a prisoner of conscience and he should be released immediately and unconditionally," Amnesty researcher William Nee said in a statement.
"The authorities must end this merciless persecution of all those associated with the New Citizens Movement." The US and the European Union condemned the original verdict against Xu and a European diplomat said representatives from at least 10 countries attempted to observe the appeal hearing, but were denied access by police.
Police "grabbed and shoved" at least one diplomat outside the courthouse, said the envoy, who declined to be named because of the sensitivity of the case.