Authorities in the northern Chinese province of Hebei have charged a local rights activist with "picking quarrels and stirring up trouble" after he held a placard up on a street in his hometown in support of the 2014 pro-democracy movement in Hong Kong.
Pei Guodong, 61, has been force-fed intravenously since beginning a hunger strike in protest at his formal arrest and charging by state prosecutors in Hebei province's Weichang Manchu and Mongol autonomous county on Nov. 21, his lawyer told RFA on Thursday.
"He has been on hunger strike for more than three months now," his lawyer Li Weida said. "He is taken to the hospital for intravenous feeding on a daily basis now, where he is force-fed via a tube in his nose."
"When I visited him, he told me that his whole body feels extremely weak."
Li said Pei also suffers from heart disease, high blood pressure and diabetes, all of which are made worse by his hunger strike.
"This is seriously damaging his health," Li said.
Pei is on hunger strike in protest over what he describes as a "miscarriage of justice," his relatives have said.
According to the official indictment against Pei, he took a photo of himself holding a banner on Oct. 1, 2014, shortly after the start of the Occupy Central pro-democracy movement in Hong Kong, which read: "Unequivocal support for the people of Hong Kong in their fight for democracy and universal suffrage."
Pei had then sent the photo to the Weiquanwang rights website, "causing serious disruption to public order," the indictment said.
The indictment also mentioned Pei's long-term petitioning activities during the 1990s.
"There is ample evidence to show that the material facts of Pei Guodong's crimes are clear, and that his actions have harmed public order," the indictment said.
Li said officials had ignored a request for bail at a pretrial meeting earlier this month.
"So far we have had no reply, and the trial date hasn't been set yet," he said, adding that Pei denies all of the charges laid against him.
"He believes that none of his actions constituted a crime, and that he was merely carrying out normal activities as a citizen," Li said.
"The indictment accuses him of support for the Occupy Central movement in Hong Kong, but also of bad-mouthing officials at the police department and the county government, and disrupting public order, as well as petitioning in 'non-petitioning areas,'" he said.
"But these actions of Pei Guodong fall within the rights of a citizen as guaranteed in the constitution," he said.
Pei's son Du Yanwei told RFA that his family is very worried about him.
"The main thing is that he's on hunger strike, and the court has refused us permission to visit him," Du said. "The family is very worried, because we have no other way to deal with this than via a lawyer."
He said Pei is no stranger to mistreatment at the hands of the government.
"The police in the local police station beat him up and really hurt him, as well as my cousin, who was only 13," Du said. "[Pei's] leg was crippled after he had surgery in 1999, and he started petitioning in 2000, starting at the county government."
"They wouldn't do anything, so he has been petitioning for 17 years now."
Subject to persecution
Sichuan-based rights activist Huang Qi said the ruling Chinese Communist Party has cracked down harshly on anyone voicing support for the pro-democracy movement, which camped out in Hong Kong's main thoroughfares for 79 days in a bid for fully democratic elections.
"In mainland China, anyone who supports the pro-democracy movement in Hong Kong will be subject to persecution by the authorities," Huang said.
"A lot of people have already gone to prison for that, and I think that this crackdown on Occupy Central supporters will continue," he said.
Beijing characterized the 2014 Occupy Central movement, during which student-led protesters camped out en masse on Hong Kong's streets in a campaign for fully democratic elections, as influenced by "hostile overseas forces."
Last December, a court in the southern province of Guangdong handed down an 18-month jail term to an activist who showed online support for Occupy Central.
Ye Xiaozheng, known online by his nickname Humian Yizhou ("a boat on the lake"), was sentenced by the Huicheng District People's Court in Guangdong's Huizhou city for "picking quarrels and stirring up trouble."
The Occupy movement campaigned for Beijing to withdraw its electoral reform plan, which it says was "fake universal suffrage," and to allow publicly nominated candidates to run for chief executive in 2017.
The controversial election reform plan, which offered a one-person, one-vote in 2017 elections for chief executive, but required candidates to be vetted by Beijing, was voted down on June 18, 2015 by 28 votes to eight in Hong Kong's Legislative Council, leaving the city with its current voting arrangements still in place.
Reported by Xin Lin for RFA's Mandarin Service. Translated and written in English by Luisetta Mudie.