Authorities in the southern Chinese province of Guangdong on Friday canceled the funeral of a rights activist who died in police custody in 2015, after his family members had arrived at the funeral home.
Zhang Liumao died while in custody at the Guangzhou No. 3 Detention Center on Nov. 4, 2015, with his family reporting that his body showed multiple signs of severe physical assault.
Relatives and a lawyer who viewed Zhang's body said there were marks on it consistent with torture.
His lawyer Tan Chenzhou reported seeing evidence of serious injuries at the time, including rectangular marks and curved, bloodied areas, and possible signs of a broken arm.
Local authorities dispatched large numbers of state security police and uniformed police to the Galaxy Cemetery in Guangzhou on Friday and canceled the scheduled cremation.
When Zhang's sister Zhang Weichu arrived at the crematorium, she was told that that the funeral couldn't go ahead.
"There are more than a dozen of them in the main hall, and the same number in the open space outside," Zhang told RFA on Friday. "The staff at the funeral home said we should talk to the police [about why it wasn't going ahead]."
She added: "We have followed all the rules."
She said the dispute over the manner of her brother's death hasn't been resolved.
"If the truth is really what they say, they can put out the video of [my brother] before he died," she said.
Repeated calls to the funeral home failed to connect on Friday.
‘I was devastated’
Another sister, Zhang Wuzhou, who traveled from the central province of Hubei to attend the cremation, said she was devastated by the decision.
"I thought of my brother and I was devastated," she said. "I had thought that if they brought me to Guangzhou, they would let me see my brother one last time. That's what the state security police here thought was happening too."
"I cried so much I fell into a dead faint," she said, adding that the cancellation was likely linked to a forthcoming meeting of local ruling Chinese Communist Party leaders.
Zhang Weichu, an experienced gynecologist, has lost her job and been evicted from her home along with her young son since taking up her brother's case with the authorities.
She has been unable to secure another job as a doctor since being fired from the Vanke Hospital in Guangdong's Qingyuan city on Aug. 31, and fears she will be barred from such work in the future.
Zhang Wuzhou has also been targeted by the authorities for speaking out about her suspicions.
Reported by Gao Feng for RFA's Mandarin Service. Translated and edited by Luisetta Mudie.