Beijing court convicts two more New Citizen activists
A Beijing court has found two more activists from the New Citizen movement guilty of disturbing public order and sentenced one of them to prison.
Hou Xin and Yuan Dong were convicted of gathering a crowd to disturb public order, the Haidian District People's Court said on its microblog. New Citizen founder Xu Zhiyong was sentenced to four years in prison on the same charge on Sunday.
Xu started the grass-roots movement to promote clean governance and fairness in education. His fledgling campaign became the target of a crackdown by authorities after it inspired people across the country to gather for dinner parties to discuss social issues and occasionally to unfurl banners in public places in small rallies.
Yuan and Hou were among four activists who unfurled banners and gave speeches in a busy western section of the capital in March, urging officials to disclose their assets.
Yuan was sentenced to 18 months in prison. The court said Hou's crime was deemed "relatively light" and it spared her from punishment.
Hou said by phone that police had privately asked her not to maintain her ties with the movement. She said the court did not allow her to read a closing statement in which she denied unfurling banners. She said she was simply there to take photos.
Yuan's lawyer, Chen Jiangang , said his client would definitely appeal against the judgment. "I believe they should not even sentence him to a day. They are China's conscience," he said.
The recent rulings were a message from President Xi Jinping and his government that they regard the development of civil society as a threat, said Joseph Cheng Yu-shek, a professor of politics at City University.
"In the eyes of the reformers and liberals in China, Xi Jinping is more or less following the Putin model, rather than the Gorbachev model," he said.
Associated Press, Reuters