Fears have been growing in recent days for detained Chinese rights lawyer Shu Xiangxin after allegations that he was tortured while in a police-run detention center in the eastern province of Shandong, his lawyers told RFA.
Shu was redetained suddenly last Friday after being released on bail, on charges of "extortion and blackmail," and detained in the No. 2 Detention Center in the provincial capital Jinan.
His defense team, lawyers Li Fangping and Cai Ying, were refused permission to visit him in the detention center on Monday, Cai said.
"He was injured by a detention center guard, who asked him to do some kind of work, to which Shu Xiangxin replied that detention center rules mean he doesn't have to carry out any labor," Cai said.
"But the guy wouldn't listen and beat him up."
He said Shu had been suspended naked, by one handcuffed hand after the incident and denied food, water or visits to the toilet for nearly eight hours before his visit.
"His temperature is very low now, and he was shivering when he was brought in to meet with me, and he had injuries all over his face, which had been badly smashed up on the right hand side," Cai said.
He said Shu had been dragged off by police after barely five minutes.
"They wouldn't let us talk ... they just took him away again immediately," he said.
Cai said he is in the process of lodging an official complaint against the detention center.
Fellow defense lawyer Li said the involvement of the police
"Cai Ying got to the Jinan No. 2 Detention Center at noon and was told that he couldn't see Shu because he was being interrogated," Li said.
"But we don't understand why the police would suddenly get involved at this point, because this is a private prosecution, not a public one, so the police have never investigated it," he said.
Shu was initially detained on suspicion of extortion and blackmail in November 2012, after he had spent several months gathering evidence of connections between local officials and organized crime in Jinan.
His lawyers said at the time that he had been detained in connection with his work on behalf of villagers who were trying to fight the acquisition of their land by local officials.
He had also made online allegations that an official in Shandong's Guan county had tried to bribe him to drop a lawsuit brought against the government by local farmers, and that he had been beaten and harassed by local mobsters, official media reported at the time.
Authorities later withheld Shu's lawyer's business license, a tactic frequently used by the ruling Chinese Communist Party to target lawyers who represent "sensitive" and disadvantaged groups, often evictees who have had their land requisitioned by cash-strapped local governments.
"It is very strange that this case should have dragged on for such a long time," Li said. "The case was initially dismissed, and then both sides appealed, and the appeal court overturned the original court's decision to dismiss the case."
"But all of it has taken far longer than the legal time limit, and then they suddenly formally arrest Shu on the New Year holiday," he said.
"That's not normal. Usually, such cases ... don't involve coercive measures like that."
Cai agreed. "We can say for certain that the Jinan No. 2 Detention Center is holding him illegally," he said, adding that Shu has so far received no official notification of his formal arrest.
"I think that there is something going on behind the scenes, and that this is a case of long-planned revenge, because of the sensitive cases that Shu was involved in, representing the legal rights and interests of petitioners."
"That's why he was arrested," Cai said.
Reported by Yang Fan and Xin Lin for RFA's Mandarin Service, and by Wen Yuqing for the Cantonese Service. Translated and written in English by Luisetta Mudie.