The founder of a Chinese civil rights group known as the New Citizens' Movement has been formally charged with disturbing public order and could face trial this month, rights activists said Saturday.

The charges against Xu Zhiyong, whose group promotes upholding the Chinese constitution and reigning in the power of Communist Party leaders, were filed at the recommendation of the Beijing police, according to the China Human Rights Defenders organization.

Dissidents who attempt to mount protests in China are frequently charged with disrupting public order.

Xu's attorney, Zhang Qingfang, said it was suspicious how quickly the prosecutor's office filed the charges after receiving the police's recommendation, adding that authorities may want the trial held over the Christmas holidays so there is less international media attention.

Beijing police said Xu, who was arrested in August, "used tactics to organize and carry out a series of criminal activities, including distributing prohibited pamphlets in public places and organizing disturbances outside government installations."

The charges against Xu come shortly after another activist from that same movement, high-profile businessman Wang Gongquan, pleaded guilty to "disrupting public order" a few months after his arrest.

The former close associate of Xu's said he would cut ties with the founder of the New Citizens' Movement, the South China Morning Post reported earlier this month, citing two sources familiar with the case. EFE