Relatives of the disappeared wife of a prominent Chinese democracy activist have filed a lawsuit in the central city of Zhengzhou in a bid to force the government to reveal what happened to her.
Zhao Suli was initially detained in 2015 alongside her husband and veteran activist Qin Yongmin, co-founder of the short-lived, banned opposition China Democracy Party (CDP).
While both were initially held in an undisclosed location, Qin was eventually tracked down to a detention center, while Zhao has remained missing ever since.
Zhao's relatives have mounted a campaign to find her, culminating in an appeal on an administrative lawsuit heard by the Zhengzhou Intermediate People's Court on Thursday, the family told RFA.
Chongqing rights activist Xie Dan, who has been acted as a legal adviser to Zhao's family, said the hearing lasted two hours, and the court adjourned with no decision being reached.
"Zhao Suli disappeared after being deprived of her liberty in [the central city of] Wuhan," Xie told RFA. "But we lost the first lawsuit."
"The Wuhan authorities did everything they could to pass the buck, claiming that they hadn't detained Zhao Suli," Xie said. "So the family decided to file a lawsuit in the town of her birth, in the hoping of finding out what happened to her."
Xie said there is little cause for optimism that the appeal will be successful, but that the family will continue to use legal means to kick up a fuss about Zhao's disappearance "until they get a clear answer."
Sisters Zhao is dead
Zhao's sisters have previously told RFA they fear that she may be dead.
"The most obvious excuse they could come up with would be that Zhao Suli didn't go missing in her hometown, so this isn't the right jurisdiction for the case," Xie said.
Wuhan resident Li Yong, who has helped with efforts to track Zhao down, said the search has lasted nearly two years to date.
"It's very strange that so much time should have passed without the relatives of a dissident finding out where they are," Li said. "But all sorts of weird things can happen in China that you couldn't imagine."
He said the family is now waiting for Qin's trial, expected in the coming weeks.
"Who knows, maybe Zhao Suli will reappear after the trial," Li said.
Qin's lawyer Ma Lianshun said he had visited his client at the Wuhan No. 2 Detention Center, where he awaits trial on charges of "incitement to subvert state power."
Qin was also intially held incommunicado, and wasn't tracked down by lawyers until last June.
"I met with Qin Yongmin the day before yesterday," Ma told RFA. "Every time I go, he asks me about Zhao Suli, but we had no news to tell him."
"Qin Yongmin thinks that she is probably still alive, and is being held under [unofficial] house arrest by police," he said. "He thinks the authorities are afraid that she will become a channel of information to the outside world about Qin."
A contemporary of exiled dissident Wei Jingsheng, Qin was sentenced to eight years in prison for "counterrevolutionary propaganda and subversion" in the wake of China's Democracy Wall movement in 1981.
He served a further two years' "re-education through labor" in 1993 after he penned a controversial document titled the "Peace Charter."
Qin then served a 12-year jail term for subversion after he helped found the CDP in 1998 in spite of a ban on opposition political parties.
"Subversion of state power" carries a minimum jail term of 10 years in cases where the person is judged to have played a leading role. Jailed Nobel peace laureate Liu Xiaobo is currently serving a 13-year sentence for "incitement to subvert state power."
Reported by Ding Wenqi for RFA's Mandarin Service, and by Hai Nan for the Cantonese Service. Translated and edited by Luisetta Mudie.