HONG KONG—Authorities in the southwestern Chinese province of Sichuan are holding two civil rights activists pending further investigation, one on subversion charges and a second for fraud, their lawyers said.
The case of Suining-based Liu Xianbin had already been transferred to the state prosecutor's office, paving the way for his trial for "incitement to subvert state power," police in the city were reported as saying by the Rights Protection website.
Calls to the national security branch of the Suining municipal police station and procuratorate, or state prosecutor, went unanswered during office hours Tuesday.
Liu was first detained by national security police in Suining on June 28, on suspicion of "incitement to subvert state power," a charge often leveled at writers and political activists whom the ruling Communist Party doesn't like.
"I am slightly familiar with this case," said Sichuan-based pro-democracy activist and civil rights lawyer Zheng Jianwei, saying that it was probably linked to Liu's support for fellow activist and online writer Chen Yunfei.
Netizens organized a campaign to have Chen released after his disappearance for 64 hours in late June, bombarding Sichuan officials with inquiries about his whereabouts, and carrying yellow ribbon logos on their profile pages on microblogging services such as Twitter.
"When Chen Yunfei disappeared, Liu Xianbin went to inquire after him out of personal concern," Zheng said. "That's the kind of guy he is."
"If it was perhaps some articles he wrote expressing his views on democracy and the Constitution, well, then the right to freedom of expression is enshrined in the Constitution," he said.
"But this doesn't add up to incitement to subversion," Zheng said. "It doesn't stand up."
Liu is a veteran pro-democracy activist whose outspoken views have landed him in prison before.
A member of the outlawed China Democracy Party (CDP), Liu was sentenced to two-and-a-half years' imprisonment by a Beijing court in 1992 for spreading counterrevolutionary propaganda and subversion, and again in August 1998 to a 13-year jail term for "subversion of state power."
Zheng said the transfer of the case to the procuratorate's office doesn't look good for Liu.
"The fact that Liu Xianbin was detained formally means the authorities believed that what he did constituted a crime, and at the very least they must believe they have enough evidence to accuse him of a crime," he said.
"The news about his detention was reported very quickly," Zheng said.
"This shows that the authorities take Liu Xianbin's case very seriously. We didn't expect this."
"It looks as if he will get another lengthy prison sentence."
Activists across China have organized support activities for Liu, under the banner "I am Liu Xianbin."
Shao Lingcai, a spokesperson for the Shandong Concern Group, said that Liu's arrest is symptomatic of a broader trend.
"Once more he has spoken out for the people, and once more he has been treated without justice," Shao said.
"The nationwide Concern Group has picked the slogan 'I am Liu Xianbin' because the plight of Liu Xianbin is also the plight of every citizen."
Meanwhile, authorities in Sichuan's Zigong city also indicted rights activist Liu Zhengyou for fraud. The trial date had been postponed once already, lawyers said.
Liu Zhengyou has been active for many years in and around Zigong city, frequently helping farmers who have lost their land to government-backed property developments to sue for fair compensation.
Zheng Jianwei, Liu Zhengyou's legal representative, said the authorities are in breach of due process under China's judicial system.
"The law states clearly that the trial must be held within two weeks of the case being sent to the court," Zheng said. "This is a breach of law and of discipline, which has resulted in an innocent man being locked up for longer than he should be."
"This is a breach of his human rights."
A woman who answered the direct line to chief judge Wang Zhongxia at the Ziliujin District People's Court said the judge was out of town on business.
Liu Zhengyou's daughter Liu Jing said she is angry that her father has been held over the legal time limit, and that she has heard officials are targeting him with the case.
"I am very worried and anxious," she said. "I have heard rumors saying that they will sentence my father to four or five years in jail, that the court is out to get him."
"They are acting without reason."
Liu is accused of embezzling 20,000 yuan (U.S. $3,000) in pension funds and of faking his resume and employment background.
Original reporting in Mandarin by He Ping and in Cantonese by Grace Kei Lai-see. Mandarin service director: Jennifer Chou. Cantonese service director: Shiny Li. Translated from the Chinese and written for the Web in English by Luisetta Mudie. Edited by Sarah Jackson-Han.