Chinese police in the northern region of Inner Mongolia on Monday beat a rights activist unconscious shortly after her trial on public order charges adjourned.
Wang Fengyun, a farmer from Duolun county in Xilingol League near the border with neighboring Mongolia, stood trial on charges of "picking quarrels and stirring up trouble" at the Duolun County People's Court on Monday.
But shortly after the hearing ended, she was beaten unconscious by police, leaving her relatives to arrange medical treatment.
"When the trial ended at 5.00 p.m. today, there was still no verdict on my sister, and she was taken out of the courtroom by police," Wang's sister Wang Fenghua told RFA.
Footage shot by relatives showed Wang Fengyun lying immobile and unconscious on a stretcher surrounded by uniformed police officers.
"They left the court and were at the main entrance of the building when my sister shouted out that people were attacking her," she said.
"By the time we could see what was happening, my sister was already lying on the ground, twitching, with two police officers holding her down."
"She remained lying there for nearly half an hour. We called [an ambulance], which has just arrived," Wang Fenghua said, adding that her sister is now in the local hospital.
The attack came after the Duolun county government said it had spent U.S.$48,650 on round-the-clock surveillance of Wang, who made nine trips to Beijing to complain about a land grab by local government.
Wang and her father Wang Xingshu and husband Zhang Shufeng were detained last September following a petitioning trip to Beijing, all on the same charges.
Stability spending climbs
Wang, a typical target for "stability maintenance," incurred costs to the county that included overtime for night-time surveillance, additional personnel, and even food for those tasked with watching her.
Wang's brother Wang Fenglong told RFA last week that he believes that government spending on such "stability maintenance" activities is on the increase, and that the government regards the domestic security budget as highly sensitive.
And the family has challenged the spending estimate publicly, accusing local "interceptors" of using public money for "entertainment" purposes while trailing Wang and her family to Beijing.
"This is still about the ... 'stability maintenance' money, which the prosecution said was all spent on surveillance of my sister," Wang Fenghua said. "But the receipts are from various entertainments in the capital, including bathhouses and guesthouses that cost 1,000 yuan a night."
"The receipts also show vehicle repairs, which has nothing to do with my sister's petitioning, and is more about the abuse of power by the Dabeigou township government, which is filing fake expenses."
Wang was charged along with her father and husband after the three of them traveled to Beijing to lodge a complaint against officials in their local government over the loss of their land to a highway development.
According to their lawyers, the government took over their land and built a road on it from 2011-2013, but a land requisition order was issued by the government only on June 16, 2015.
The family's complaint was that the local government had acted illegally.
Defense ignored by the court
Wang's lawyer Wang Fei said the defense's case had been largely ignored by the court.
"During the trial, the prosecution would just give far-fetched and rambling answers when responding to the evidence that we presented," he said.
"They wouldn't accept our application for the prosecutor to be recused [owing to an apparent conflict of interest] from the case," Wang Fei said. "They said it didn't fulfill the criteria."
Wang Fenghua said her sister is currently in the local hospital.
"My sister looks to be in a very bad way; she is very pale," she said. "Our family has already put in a bail application, but the court hasn't given us any reply."
The ruling Chinese Communist Party's domestic security budget was last reported in 2013 at U.S.$130 billion, when it exceeded military spending.
Since then, no further figures have been forthcoming for the cost of nationwide operations—known collectively as the "stability maintenance system"—aimed at curbing mass protests, petitions, and other forms of peaceful dissent.
According to official figures, some six million complaints are registered against the government across the country every year, which would result in a nationwide bill of roughly U.S.$146 billion if half of those petitioners incurred costs similar to Wang's.
Reported by Qiao Long for RFA's Mandarin Service. Translated and edited by Luisetta Mudie.