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April 18, 2014

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Chinese court finds 2 grassroots activists guilty

Updated Tuesday, Jan. 28, 2014 | 9:49 p.m.

BEIJING (AP) — A Beijing court said it had found two more activists from the New Citizens movement guilty Wednesday 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 court said on its microblog, the same charge that New Citizens founder Xu Zhiyong was convicted of on Sunday. He was sentenced to four years in prison.

Xu founded the grassroots New Citizens movement to promote clean governance and fairness in education. His fledgling campaign became a target of a clampdown 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.

The court said Hou's crime was deemed "relatively light," and that it was sparing her from punishment. Yuan was sentenced to a year and a half in prison.

Hou's charge stemmed from her unfurling banners with three other people in a Beijing commercial district calling for the disclosure of officials' assets.

Hou said by phone that police had asked her privately not to continue her ties with the movement. She said the court didn't allow her to read a closing statement in which she said that she did not unfurl banners during a March rally in Beijing calling for officials to disclose their assets, but was simply there to take photos.

She also said in the statement that she feared she wouldn't come out of prison alive because of ill health.

"Though I am not as brave as (Xu) is and not as wise, I do agree with his many viewpoints," she wrote in the statement that was circling on social media.