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China Convicts Two More Anti-Corruption Activists

China's ruling Communist Party is continuing its crackdown on government critics by convicting two more anti-corruption activists.

A Beijing court on Wednesday found Hou Xin and Yuan Dong guilty of "gathering a crowd to disturb public order."

Hou and Yuan are members of the grassroots New Citizens movement, which calls for officials to disclose their assets and for education equality.

Chang Boyang, a lawyer for Yuan, tells VOA's Mandarin service that an appeal is certain.

"Before the court tried the case, we met in the detention center, we discussed it, if he is given a guilty verdict, he will appeal. At present, he is sentenced to a year and a half [in prison], so we will definitely appeal."

Hou was able to avoid prison time because the court said her crime was "less serious."

Hou's lawyer, Ding Xikui, says his client's health problems played a role in her sentence.

"In April the four were detained, she was inside for 10 days before she was bailed out. At the time, she was critically ill. We went to the hospital to handle the bail procedures. So, the judiciary wouldn't dare detain her again."

The convictions come days after New Citizen founder Xu Zhiyong received four years in jail, in a ruling that provoked international condemnation.

But activist Hu Jia tells VOA the movement is not dead.

"There is no need to be so pessimistic. For the New Citizens' Movement itself, it has never been completely eliminated. Even in a place like Beijing, despite entering the cold winter, but, you know in winter those seeds still maintain strength in the soil.

Daniel Delk with the U.S. Embassy in Beijing said Washington is "deeply disappointed" in the convictions.

"We're deeply disappointed that Yuan Dong, a good governance advocate, has been convicted and sentenced to one and a-half years in prison. We are concerned that today's conviction, like that of legal scholar and rights advocate Xu Zhiyong just earlier this week, is retribution for his public campaign to expose official corruption and for the peaceful expression of his views.''

The State Department says it is concerned that the prosecutions in China's Communist Party-controlled courts are retribution for the activists' public campaign to expose corruption.

Although the group does support democracy and the rule of law, some of its ideals are at least similar to that of the stated goals of the Communist Party, which also has vowed to crack down on corruption.

Since coming to power last year, the party's chairman, President Xi Jinping, has launched an anti-graft campaign that has brought down several lower and mid-level officials accused of corruption.

But Beijing has reacted angrily to the notion of a citizen-led anti-corruption campaign, arresting at least 20 people who made public calls for officials to publicly disclose their assets.

(This report was produced in collaboration with the VOA Mandarin service.)

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