The father of jailed Chinese human rights lawyer Jiang Tianyong has been called in and issued with a warning by the country's state security police after the family issued a statement slamming the government's forced "appointment" of defense lawyers in the case.
"The state security police took Jiang Tianyong's father down to the police station [on Friday] for a chat, and they told him not to ... have anything to do with anyone outside [the case], because it is still under investigation," Jiang's U.S.-based wife Jin Bianling told RFA on Friday.
The warning came after the family issued a joint statement on Thursday hitting out at the authorities for refusing to recognize defense lawyers they appointed by refusing their requests to meet with Jiang, who has had no contact with family or lawyers since his incarceration.
"It seems the authorities are up to their old tricks and are forcing Jiang Tianyong to accept government-appointed lawyers," the statement, posted on the website of the U.S.-based Human Rights in China, said.
"Hearing this news, we are beside ourselves with anger," said the statement, signed by Jiang's mother, father and wife.
It said the authorities appear to be taking the same approach with all lawyers detained in a nationwide operation since July 2015, including Wang Quanzhang, Li Heping, and Xie Yang.
"We absolutely do not recognize or accept government-appointed lawyers," the family said, calling on the government to recognize lawyers Chen Jinxue and Zhang Lei as Jiang's official defense team.
"We reserve the right to sue the government units handling the case on account of their unlawful appointment of lawyers," it said.
Jin said she had told her father-in-law Jiang Lianghou that the family needs to speak out more, not less, following the warning from state security police.
"I told his father that Jiang Tianyong is innocent, and that the more afraid [the authorities] become, the more we have to speak to people outside the case, to tell the whole world that Jiang Tianyong is innocent," she said.
Meanwhile, Jiang's mother Wei Ziyun issued a video statement in support of her son, who faces charges of "subversion of state power" after his initial detention last November.
"To this day, the lawyers we appointed to defend him have been unable to meet with him," Wei said. "I don't believe that my son would break the law, because he studies the law."
"My son is himself a lawyer who has helped many, many people," she said.
Official complaint lodged
Meanwhile, Wang Qiaoling, the wife of detained attorney Li Heping, Li Wenzu, wife of Wang Quanzhang, and Beijing-based rights activist Hu Jia lodged an official complaint at the Supreme People's Procuratorate in Beijing over the treatment of the detained lawyers.
"To start with, they kept us waiting outside, saying that the leader was making a speech," Wang Qiaoling said after the visit on Friday.
"Then, about 10 minutes later, they let us go in, and told us that there had to be a minimum period of three months since our last complaint, so they couldn't accept it," she said.
"We told them that we weren't lodging a complaint, but a lawsuit, but they ... wouldn't do anything about that, and found some police to drag us back outside again," she said.
Authorities in the northern province of Hebei, which borders Beijing, have meanwhile been holding rights activist Gou Hongguo, detained as part of the crackdown on the legal profession, under house arrest after handing him a three-year suspended sentence for "subversion of state power."
Gou's associate Liu Yue said he had been released from detention following a gall-bladder attack and had recently had surgery for the problem.
"He had been under very tight surveillance, but the state security police gave permission for him to come to Beijing for treatment," Liu said. "We were then able to visit him easily, but there were state security police and regular police hiding there. I think the authorities have put overly harsh restrictions on him."
Reported by Yang Fan and Ding Wenqi for RFA's Mandarin Service. Translated and edited by Luisetta Mudie.