Authorities in the southern Chinese province of Guangdong look set to move ahead with the subversion trial of the "Guangzhou Three" rights lawyers next month, their lawyer said on Thursday.
Tang Jingling, Wang Qingying, and Yuan Xinting were criminally detained on May 16, 2014 initially for "picking quarrels and stirring up trouble," but the charges were later changed to the more serious "incitement to subvert state power."
"I think the indictment will come very soon now, within the next three weeks," Yuan's lawyer Ge Wenxiu told RFA after meeting with his client in Guangzhou's No. 1 Detention Center on Tuesday.
"They will [all three] be indicted at the same time ... as they will all be part of the same case," Ge said. "We are still waiting for confirmation, and we won't know the details until the indictment is released."
The three were detained amid a nationwide crackdown on 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.
Ge said Yuan had seemed in relatively good spirits during the visit.
"He said he wasn't doing too badly in there, and I gave him letters from his son and daughter," he said. "He said the conditions in there aren't too bad, and that they allow him to read books."
"His health is not too bad either."
Appeal for world's attention
He said Yuan had called on the international community to pay more attention to the struggle going on inside China for freedom and democracy.
"Chinese people make up a fifth of the world's population, and their liberation movement is closely bound up with the freedom of humanity as a whole," Ge quoted Yuan as saying.
Tang's wife Wang Yanfang told RFA that the news came after the state prosecution service had twice referred the case back to police for further investigation, although no new evidence had been produced against her husband.
"Everybody knows that this is a political case, and that what they did in no way amounts to a crime under Chinese law," Wang said.
The police charge sheet for Tang mentioned his involvement in "civil disobedience movements," a commemoration of the death of Mao-era dissident Lin Zhao, and a June 4 meditation event.
Also mentioned was his part in a campaign to end China's "hukou" household registration system linking access to education and other public services to a person's town of birth.
Meanwhile, authorities in the central Chinese city of Zhengzhou have already issued an indictment of detained activist Yu Shiwen for "picking quarrels and stirring up trouble," his lawyer said.
Yu was detained as part of the same crackdown on activists marking the 25th anniversary of the 1989 Tiananmen Square bloodshed, and is the last of the "Zhengzhou 10" activists to remain behind bars.
Yu had given interviews to overseas media, and had issued signed invitations to public memorial events and posted them online, according to the indictment.
As a result, the memorial event was covered by 28 media organizations, it said, and photos of the event were viewed online by large numbers of people, it said.
But his lawyer Zhang Xuezhong said his actions didn't amount to a crime under Chinese law.
"Giving interviews to overseas media and post things online, no matter how many people click on them, doesn't amount to a crime," Zhang said in an interview on Thursday.
"These criminal charges are in fact a form of political persecution, because it's really about the fact that the authorities don't want people to bring up [Tiananmen] in public," he said.
"It's not disrupting public order, whether hundreds or even thousands of people click on these documents online."
Zhang said it is a natural and normal part of Chinese traditional culture to remember and to venerate the dead.
The ruling Chinese Communist Party bans public memorials marking the event, although police have escorted the relatives of those who died from house arrest to cemeteries to pay their respects to loved ones in private.
Calls for reappraisal
The party has continued to ignore growing calls in China and from overseas for a reappraisal of the 1989 student protests, which it once styled a "counterrevolutionary rebellion."
The number of people killed when People's Liberation Army tanks and troops entered Beijing on the night of June 3-4, 1989, remains a mystery.
Beijing authorities once put the death toll at "nearly 300," but the central government, which labeled the six weeks of pro-democracy protests a "counterrevolutionary uprising," has not issued an official toll or list of names.
China has launched a clampdown in recent years on its embattled legal profession, with many civil rights law firms struggling to renew their licenses.
New rules introduced in the past two years ban lawyers from defending certain clients, and leave them vulnerable to being charged themselves with subversion if they defend sensitive cases.
Out of more than 204,000 lawyers in China, only a few hundred risk taking on cases that deal with human rights, according to Amnesty International.
Reported by Qiao Long and Yang Fan for RFA's Mandarin Service. Translated and written in English by Luisetta Mudie.