Activists across China launched a renewed campaign for the release of Guangzhou rights lawyer Guo Feixiong, while relatives of three other detained lawyers from the southern city took to the streets seeking their freedom.
Detained rights lawyer Yang Maodong, better known by his pseudonym Guo Feixiong, was detained in Aug. 8, 2013 on suspicion of "gathering a crowd to disrupt social order" after he petitioned the government to ratify U.N. human rights covenants.
However, his case has been sent back for further investigation twice by the state prosecution service in Guangzhou's Tianhe district, his lawyer said.
A "pre-trial meeting" scheduled for Aug. 1 also never took place, Guo's lawyer Sui Muqing told RFA.
Sui said he had launched a nationwide campaign to draw attention to Guo's case, including a T-shirt campaign using his photograph.
"This is a campaign taking place across China, and there are so many people taking part that some of them haven't even received their clothing yet," Sui said.
"One year is a long time to be detained [without trial]."
On Sunday, relatives of three prominent Guangzhou rights lawyers formally arrested on charges of "incitement to subvert state power" took to the streets of the southern city with placards calling for their release.
Tang Jingling, Wang Qingying and Yuan Xinting were criminally detained on May 16, initially for "picking quarrels and stirring up trouble." But the charges were later changed to the more serious subversion charges.
Photos posted online showed Wang Qingying's wife Zeng Jieshan holding up a cardboard sign with a cross printed on it, as well as the slogan "Families are suffering in silence!"
Wang's one-year-old son was also shown holding a sign saying: "Daddy, come home!"
Other protesters held placards that read "Conscience is innocent," "Tang Jingling come home," and "No violence = no crime."
"The authorities warned us that we shouldn't go waving placards on the streets, nor should we make campaign T-shirts," Tang's wife Wang Yanfang told RFA on Monday.
"They said we should be careful what we say."
Worried over detention
But she said the families of the detained lawyers found the waiting unbearable.
"We just want our loved ones to come home as soon as possible," Wang said. "I don't think the content of our placards was very sensitive."
"Tang Jingling has always stood for non-violence ... so he's not guilty of any crime," she added.
She said Yuan Xinting's family, which is based in the southwestern province of Sichuan, was extremely worried by his detention.
"All the families are really concerned right now, because not one of these people has broken Chinese law."
Chinese authorities detained and questioned dozens of activists and family members of victims of the 1989 military crackdown on the Tiananmen Square student-led pro-democracy movement in the run-up to the 25th anniversary on June 4, rights groups say.
The 25th anniversary is seen as particularly significant for those who see the decision by late supreme leader Deng Xiaoping to send in the troops as a turning point in Chinese history, when a more conciliatory approach espoused by reform-minded then-premier Zhao Ziyang might have led the country down a more democratic path.
Meanwhile, an appeal court in the eastern province of Jiangxi on has upheld the jail sentences of up to six-and-a-half years handed to three New Citizens' Movement anti-graft activists on public order charges, after they called on officials to disclose their assets.
Activists Liu Ping and Wei Zhongping were jailed for six-and-a-half years apiece for "picking quarrels and stirring up trouble," "using an evil cult to pervert the course of justice" and "gathering a crowd to disrupt social order," the Yushui District People's Court in Jiangxi's Xinyu city announced.
Fellow defendant Li Sihua was jailed for three years for "picking quarrels and stirring up trouble."
The three were detained in April 2013 after they held up signs in the street to demand that high-ranking officials disclose their assets.
All three appealed against their sentences, but were rejected by the appeal court on Monday, officials told lawyer Si Weijiang.
"We got a call this afternoon from Lawyer Si, who told us that ... he had just received news that the original verdict and sentence had been upheld," Liu Ping's daughter Liao Minyue said in an interview on Monday.
Asked if her mother would appeal again, Liao replied: "Probably not, because we think it's meaningless. We don't accept that the court or the government has acted legally," she said.
Reported by Xin Lin and Qiao Long for RFA's Mandarin Service, and by Pan Jiaqing for the Cantonese Service. Translated and written in English by Luisetta Mudie.