A rights activist who publicly commemorated the June 4, 1989 military crackdown on the Tiananmen Square student movement last year is being mistreated in detention as she awaits trial on public order charges, her lawyer told RFA on Friday.
Li Xiaoling will stand trial on charges of "picking quarrels and stirring up trouble," after she wore a T-shirt with a commemorative slogan on Tiananmen Square last year, her lawyer Lin Qilei said after visiting her in detention on Thursday.
Li was transferred to the Xicheng Detention Center in Guangdong's Zhuhai city after she complained about her treatment at the hands of police, Lin said.
Now, she is being held without access to daily exercise, and is unable to buy food or daily necessities such as medicines via an internal account, as other prisoners are, he said.
"I met with Li Xiaoling inside the Xicheng Detention Center on Wednesday," Lin said. "She seemed pretty exhausted, and there was clearly something wrong with her eyes."
"She said she needs eyedrops three times a day, and that her eyes are very painful right now."
Fellow activists Zhou Li, Li Xuehui, Kuang Jianhu, Zhao Chunhong, Bu Yongzhu, Liang Yankui and Zhao Xin were also being held under criminal detention on the same charges, for similar activities last June, their lawyers said.
Kuang's lawyer Shang Baojun said he had also visited his client on Wednesday.
"I asked Kuang Jianhu [what the charges were for] ... and he said it was because they had allowed Li Xiaoling to stay over one night in their home, which had implicated him," Shang said. "The police didn't want to ask him about anything else."
"[Kuang's girlfriend] Zhou Li was detained first, and then they went for him," he said.
Shang said Kuang didn't appear to have broken any law, and called for his immediate release.
Zhou was also able to meet with her lawyer Ma Guangquan on Wednesday.
"Zhou Li seemed pretty chipper, and told me she is fine," Ma said. "The police had told her she is under criminal detention for providing Li Xiaoling with a place to stay."
"Quite a few people have gotten involved in this case, which is like other, similar, sensitive cases," Ma said. "I don't think they'll be releasing them any time soon."
Meanwhile, Li Xuehui's lawyer Ding Xikui said it is still unclear whether his client's detention is linked to Li Xiaoling's protest.
Zhou Jie, a friend of the detainees, said he isn't ruling out a forthcoming trial.
"These out-of-town lawyers charge pretty high fees, and we're going to have to find the money for 16 lawyers," Zhou said. "We are talking about around 10,000 yuan (U.S. $1,471) in total."
"But the most important thing is to have these lawyers meet with them," Zhou said.
Sources said Bu Yongzhu and Liang Yankui have yet to hire defense attorneys, however.
Li was among a group of activists that included Beijing-based Qi Zhiyong, who was maimed when a tank ran over his legs on the night of June 3, 1989 in Beijing, along with Dalian-based Jiang Jianjun and Shandong-based Wang Fulei.
The group had taken photos of themselves wearing T-shirts and holding placards as an act of protest ahead of the 27th anniversary of the massacre last June.
The T-shirts bore the words "June 4th. Never Forget", and state security police quickly launched a probe into the photographs.
Li was ordered to leave Beijing, but said in an interview at the time that she hadn't broken any laws.
The protest came as a group of activists posted photos of themselves online also wearing T-shirts commemorating the bloodshed, which came when People's Liberation Army (PLA) troops cleared Beijing of thousands of protesters calling for democracy who had camped for weeks in on Tiananmen Square.
Guangdong activist Bu Yongzhu said at the time that younger people in China must get past the "Great Firewall" of Internet censorship to find out about the events of 1989, and that he acted out of concern that they would forget, or never learn, what really happened.
The administration of President Xi Jinping has broadened government control over freedoms of expression, assembly, and association, and the right to political participation, continuing a trend set in place after the 1989 crackdown, and detaining hundreds of activists in recent years, rights groups say.
The Tiananmen massacre was precipitated by the peaceful gatherings of students, workers, and others in Beijing’s Tiananmen Square and other cities in April 1989 calling for freedom of expression, accountability, and an end to corruption, but the government responded by instituting martial law, the New York-based Human Rights Watch said in a report issued on last year's anniversary.
The number of deaths in the violence remains unknown, although the victims' group the Tiananmen Mothers have compiled exact accounts of the deaths of 202 people across China, including Beijing.
Reported by Ding Wenqi for RFA's Mandarin Service. Translated and edited by Luisetta Mudie.