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China puts rights activists on trial

XINYU, China — China on Monday put on trial three activists from a group that used protest banners and dinner parties to urge citizens to embrace their constitutional rights, underscoring the Communist Party’s intolerance of any semblance of organized political challenge.

The trial of grass-roots rights advocates Liu Ping, Wei Zhongping, and Li Sihua at a district court in Xinyu city in eastern Jiangxi province was held under tight security.

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It adjourned Monday with an unexpected development: After defense lawyers lost a gambit to declare the judges unfit, the judges prevented the lawyers from speaking further and the activists declared they wanted to hire new attorneys. The court did not say when the proceedings would resume.

Police used crowd-control barriers to keep the public, journalists — and diplomats from the United States, the European Union, and Canada — about a few hundred yards away from the courthouse.

‘‘The United States urges the Chinese government to respect internationally recognized human rights and fundamental freedoms, including the freedoms of expression and assembly,’’ said Daniel Delk, the US Embassy’s political officer.

The three activists are part of the New Citizens Movement, a loose network of campaigners who have lobbied for officials to declare their assets to help curb corruption. Participants have held small, peaceful demonstrations and organized dinner parties.

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