Two years after their initial detention, authorities in the southwestern Chinese province of Sichuan are still holding four people for selling and promoting bottles of liquor marking the bloody military crackdown on the student-led democracy movement of 1989.
Teahouse proprietor Fu Hailu was taken away by police in the provincial capital Chengdu in May 2016, after they marketed the alcohol, which bore the words "June 4, 1989" and a cartoon of a man in front of an advancing column of tanks on the label. The label also says "Never forget, never give up."
According to another slogan on the bottle, the baijiu spirit had "matured for 27 years," the length of time since People's Liberation Army (PLA) troops put an end to weeks of student protests on Tiananmen Square, using tanks and machine guns on largely unarmed civilians.
Now Fu and fellow-defendants Luo Fuyu, Zhang Juanyong and Chen Bing face charges of "incitement to subvert state power," but the pretrial investigation period was recently once more postponed by the Supreme People's Court in Beijing until Nov. 18, the Weiquanwang rights website reported.
Fu’s wife Liu Tianyan said she has applied to a number of different judicial departments and hired lawyers to represent him, but the case has yet to move forward.
"There won't be a trial on Nov. 18," Liu told RFA on Wednesday. "They have just extended the [pretrial] period until that date."
"I don't know what will happen after that; I have no idea," she said. "I feel as if I have nowhere left to go with this, and I have no idea what to do next."
"Things aren't easy right now because I have a kid and an elderly person to care for, and I'm all on my own," Liu said.
Repeated calls to the Chengdu Intermediate People's Court rang unanswered during office hours on Wednesday.
Fu's defense attorney Ran Tong said the Supreme Court was permitted by an amendment to criminal procedure law to extend pretrial periods in certain cases, which had rung alarm bells among rights lawyers at the time.
"After it was revised, the Criminal Procedure Law gave the Supreme Court unlimited powers to do this," Ran said. "It is legal, but the law has given rein ... to unrestricted power."
"The legal profession raised strong objections at the time, but their opposition was ineffective, and now we are slowly seeing the damaging consequences," he said.
Ran called on the ruling Communist Party to heed warnings from the legal profession and revisit the amendments, which he said interfere with the right to a legal defense.
"The prosecutor can do this by meeting with the court officials behind closed doors, and there is no restriction on how long a case can be extended," he said. "For a court's power to be unlimited, doesn't accord with the principle of the rule of law, but I don't see this changing in the short term."
All four defendants are being held in the Chengdu Detention Center, and were indicted by the Chengdu municipal prosecutor's office in March.
According to media reports at the time, the drink had been designed for private circulation among groups of friends on social media, rather than for public sale.
China regularly implements nationwide security measures aimed at preventing any public memorials linked to the June 4 crackdown, which was styled a "counterrevolutionary rebellion" by the ruling Chinese Communist Party.
Reported by Wen Yuqing for the Cantonese Service. Translated and edited by Luisetta Mudie.