As the Chinese government continues its crackdown targeting human rights lawyers, a second son of a prominent rights attorney in Beijing has been denied permission to leave the country for study purposes, his father told RFA.
Liu Yuyang, 21, who is in his final year of a bachelor's degree at a university in the southern city of Nanchang, was planning to apply to graduate school overseas, but his passport application was rejected, father Liu Xiaoyuan said.
The move comes shortly after Chinese police detained the teenage son of detained rights attorney Wang Yu and legal activist Bao Longjun in Myanmar, as he tried to flee the country to take up his studies after his passport was confiscated.
"He began a legitimate application process via an overseas education services company in the middle of September ... and applied for his passport on Oct. 8," Liu said.
"I went back with him to the police station in Nanchang University ... where the police officer told us that they couldn't issue him with a passport," he said.
"The police officer said that his application had been locked by the Beijing municipal police department, and couldn't go ahead, because of his participation in some kind of rebellious organization," Liu said.
"My son said he is just a university student, and has never taken part in any kind of organization."
The refusal of a second passport to the offspring of rights lawyers comes amid a crackdown on the profession that began with the detention of Wang, Bao and their colleagues at Beijing's Fengrui law firm.
According to the Hong Kong-based Chinese Human Rights Lawyers Concern Group, at least 293 lawyers, law firm staff, human rights activists and family members have been detained, questioned by police, forbidden to leave the country, held under residential surveillance, or are simply missing.
While many have since been released, 31 remain under criminal detention, enforced 'disappearance' or residential surveillance, with the majority being held in unknown locations, the group said.
Liu Xiaoyuan said the entire family is very angry about the treatment meted out to his son.
"I don't know the best thing to do now," he said. "I can write to them and see what happens, but I don't want my kid to have to use unofficial channels like smuggling himself out of the country."
Liu added: "The case of Wang Yu's son has really made me think," referring to 16-year-old Bao Zhuoxuan, also known as Bao Mengmeng, who is currently under house arrest at his grandparents' home in the northern region of Inner Mongolia.
"The family is really angry about this, and they are furious with me, saying it's my legal practice in Beijing that brings down even more official harassment than usual on their heads," he said.
"But all I did was represent a few cases, and now my son has become implicated," he said. "It's not just the effect on his study plans; it has been a huge psychological blow to the kid."
Liu said there are now concerns that a third son of a Fengrui lawyer may also have his existing passport confiscated.
Hong Kong-based rights campaigner Richard Choi, whose group has been a vocal campaigner on behalf of Chinese rights lawyers, said there seems to be no let up in the authorities' attitude to the country's embattled legal profession.
"This crackdown is getting more and more serious, and it is a violation of human rights, as well as of what is right," Choi said. "This practice of punishing several generations of a family by
association [with dissidents] is illegal."
Choi called on the United Nations and the international community to do more to oversee China's human rights record.
"It's not even a question of democratic development any more; it's just a question of staying within existing Chinese law," he said.
Meanwhile, overseas rights activists have hit out at the increasing use of violence and torture against Chinese lawyers.
"Since President Xi Jinping came to power in March 2013, there has been a surge in incidents of violent assaults against human rights lawyers in retaliation for their work defending clients in politically 'sensitive' cases, the overseas-based Chinese Human Rights Defenders (CHRD) network said in a statement on its website.
"Physical violence by police or state-hired thugs has been a continuous tactic used against Chinese human rights lawyers," said the group, which collates and translates reports from rights groups inside China.
It said the wave of violence against lawyers, and the harassment and detention of their family members and associates, shows that Beijing has failed to take steps to fulfill its obligations under international rights conventions.
Assaults and torture perpetrated on lawyers have included shackling during arbitrary detention, punching, kicking, verbal abuse, and threats, the group said.
While the victims are left with severe physical injuries and psychological suffering, the perpetrators are never brought to justice, it said, calling on the international community to take concrete steps to sanction China over the abuses.
Reported by Xin Lin for RFA's Mandarin Service, and by the Cantonese Service. Translated and written in English by Luisetta Mudie.