A doctor and rights activist in the southern Chinese province of Guangdong lost her job because she made "anti-government" comments online at a time when she was seeking answers over the death of her brother in police custody.
The labor arbitration committee in Guangdong's Qingyuan city announced last Friday that gynecologist Zhang Weichu's contract with the hospital where she worked was legitimately terminated because she had made politically "sensitive" comments online.
"You posted anti-government and anti-social comments to a government website, which is a very serious matter," the arbitrator told Zhang in a recording of the hearing sent to RFA. "Moreover, you admit having posted these comments. If you don't agree with the ruling, you may appeal."
Zhang, whose contract was officially terminated by the Vanke Hospital in Qingyuan on Aug. 31, said she was baffled by the ruling, and has vowed to appeal.
"[The arbitrator] said I had posted anti-government and anti-social comments online, which could have a negative impact on my patients, having serious consequences for the hospital," she said.
"They said that because I had already made these comments ... that meant that I had obtained my contract by fraudulent means, and therefore it was legal for the hospital to terminate it, and that there was no need for them to compensate me," Zhang said.
Zhang's activism began after her brother Zhang Liumao was reported dead by authorities in the police-run Guangzhou No. 3 Detention Center in the early hours of Nov. 4, 2015 prompting suspicions from his family that he was tortured.
Zhang Liumao's lawyer was able to view his client's body shortly afterwards, and reported that it showed multiple signs of severe physical assault.
However, both Zhang, a specialist gynecologist with more than two decades' experience, and her sister have been targeted by the authorities for speaking out about their suspicions.
Hospital under government pressure
Zhang said she won't be cowed by Wednesday's ruling, however.
"All societies have their darkness, their injustices, but we should all have the freedom to talk about them, and to demand that society change for the better, shouldn't we?" Zhang said.
"I will continue to speak out, to appeal in court, and to call online for lawyers and anyone working with labor issues, to see if they can look into how anti-social comments could result in a person not being able to work," she said.
Repeated calls to the Vanke Hospital and the Qingcheng district labor and personnel bureau rang unanswered during office hours on Wednesday.
Rights lawyer Ren Quanniu said he was surprised that no compensation was awarded.
"I didn't think there'd be any problem with awarding compensation," Ren said. "I think it was unlikely that she would succeed in keeping that job, though, because I'm sure that the hospital was being put under huge pressure [by the government]."
Online free speech activist Wu Bin said he had gone with Zhang to pick up the arbitration decision document on Wednesday.
"It's because she is pro-democracy, and she talks about it, and they see it as anti-government and anti-society," Wu said. "It's totally ridiculous ... This would be unthinkable in a normal country."
Reported by Wong Lok-to for RFA's Cantonese Service, and by Yang Fan for the Mandarin Service. Translated and edited by Luisetta Mudie.