Activists and pro-democracy politicians delivered symbolic Christmas gifts to the ruling Chinese Communist Party's liaison office in Hong Kong on Friday in protest over the detention of rights lawyer Jiang Tianyong.
A few dozen activists, led by the Chinese Human Rights Lawyers Concern Group, marched to the Central Government Liaison Office in the former British colony, shouting "Free Jiang Tianyong!" and "Release all prisoners of conscience immediately!"
They stuck posters to the gate of the liaison office before donning Santa Claus hats and delivering symbolic gifts and greetings cards to other political prisoners, including jailed 2010 Nobel Peace laureate Liu Xiaobo, via the letterbox.
Their protest came just days after Norway and China re-established diplomatic links after a freeze of six years after the Nobel award sparked fury among Chinese officials.
They then mailed out the gift-boxes from the General Post Office nearby.
Lawyer and rights activist Albert Ho said Jiang is the focus of their campaign this year because he had offered legal advice to many people fighting for their rights, including the now U.S.-based legal activist Chen Guangcheng, the villagers of Guangdong's Taishi village who tried to get rid of a corrupt local leader, and many others who have been targeted for persecution by the authorities.
"We have come to the Central Liaison Office today to voice our strong protest [at Jiang's detention]," Ho said.
Charges of 'a very serious nature'
He said Jiang, who "disappeared" in the central city of Changsha on Nov. 21 after visiting the family of another detained lawyer, now faces subversion charges.
"We have only just learned that Jiang is facing charges of "incitement to subvert state power," which are of a very serious nature," Ho said.
"Jiang has spent more than a decade speaking out for the most vulnerable groups in society, and he is very courageous," he said.
"We are extremely angry that he now faces such a charge, and that he is being targeted for serious persecution, and likely physical mistreatment too."
Veteran rights activist Leung Kwok-hung, who is also a pan-democratic lawmaker in the city's Legislative Council (LegCo), said media reports have indicated that Jiang has already "confessed" to the charges.
"This is terrifying, because the authorities didn't admit they were holding him until he had been 'disappeared' for quite a while," Leung said.
"This makes us very concerned. I think that Jiang must be going through a terrible time right now," he said.
Norway says no apology for Liu Xiaobo Nobel
More than 300 lawyers, law firm staff, rights activists and relatives were detained, questioned, or placed under surveillance or other restrictions in a nationwide police operation targeting the legal profession launched in July 2015.
At least 16 remain in criminal detention on subversion charges, while four have been handed jail terms of up to seven years, according to the Hong Kong-based Chinese Human Rights Lawyers Concern Group.
Many others have been denied access to lawyers, and to family visits.
Beijing and Oslo issued a joint communique on Monday reestablishing normal diplomatic ties during a visit to Beijing by Norwegian Foreign Minister Borge Brende.
"The Norwegian government reiterates its commitment to the one-China policy, fully respects China‘s sovereignty and territorial integrity, attaches high importance to China‘s core interests and major concerns, will not support actions that undermine them, and will do its best to avoid any future damage to the bilateral relations," the statement said.
Beijing had repeatedly demanded an apology, but the Norwegian government denied having given one.
"We haven’t made any concessions but we have engaged in confidence-building work over a long period of time," Prime Minister Erna Solberg told reporters in Oslo.
Norwegian officials had apparently refused to apologize, saying that the Nobel Committee is an independent body that can make any award it likes, according to Norwegian media reports.
Reported by Lee Lai for RFA's Cantonese Service, and by Ding Wenqi for the Mandarin Service. Translated and written in English by Luisetta Mudie.