About 200 thugs in east China harass attorneys for defending civil rights activists

About 200 thugs have harassed lawyers and relatives of three civil rights activists outside a courthouse in eastern China, as top judges marked the anniversary of China's constitution by hailing the rule of law.

The three activists stood trial Wednesday in the city of Xinyu on illegal assembly charges that supporters say were trumped up to punish them for being part of a group that urges citizens to embrace their constitutional rights.

Lawyer Pu Zhiqiang says the attorneys and the defendants' relatives were harassed by nearly 200 thugs outside the court, which barred most of the public from attending the trial.

Wednesday also marks the 31st anniversary of China's constitution — and top judges in Beijing commemorated it with pledges to promote the rule of law and judicial transparency.