China indicts prominent legal activist who founded New Citizens civic group

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A lawyer says Beijing prosecutors have indicted a prominent legal activist who founded a group that promotes civil society.

Zhang Qingfang said city prosecutors told him that they formally charged Xu Zhiyong on Friday. Calls to Beijing city prosecutors rang unanswered.

Xu founded the New Citizens Movement, a loose network of activists who have gathered for political discussions over dinner and held small street rallies to urge officials to disclose their assets.

Zhang said he has not seen the indictment notice but thinks prosecutors were likely to pursue the charge of "organizing a crowd to disrupt order in a public place."

Xu's arrest in late August highlighted a wide-ranging crackdown by the authoritarian government on peaceful expression and underscored how unnerved the country's leaders are by independent collective action.