A district court in Beijing on Tuesday made a limited award in favor of the wife of high-profile rights lawyer Xie Yanyi against the landlord who evicted her family last year under huge pressure from the police, RFA has learned.
The hearing for the lawsuit filed by Yuan Shanshan opened in the Miyun District People's Court in a suburb of Beijing, at 10.00 a.m., with judges deciding the process would continue in spite of the defendant's absence.
Yuan said the landlord had called her at the weekend, asking to settle out of court, and saying she had evicted Yuan and her family at the request of the Miyuan urban management police, or "chengguan."
But the judge denied Yuan's request to have the local chengguan added to the case as a defendant, she said.
The judge also rejected witness testimony provided by Yuan, although video footage was allowed.
The judge found that Yuan was entitled to the reimbursement of rent monies paid in advance, but not for the recovery of personal items lost in the forced eviction process.
Yuan was also ordered to pay costs, she told RFA after the case was wrapped up.
"The landlord, the defendant, didn't show up today," Yuan said.
"I told the judge that the landlord called me two days ago to try to settle, and said that it was the police who wouldn't let him rent the place to us," she said.
"The court let the police station very obviously off the hook, and didn't force the landlord to appear," Yuan said. "If I had had no video evidence, he wouldn't have even [ordered my rent repayed]."
"All of this persecution stems from the fact that the human rights lawyers [detained, questioned and jailed] since July 2015 have stuck to their principles," she said.
"I don't even want to think about how bad it could get in future: I have to just carry on."
A nationwide police operation under the administration of President Xi Jinping has targeted more than 300 lawyers, law firms, and related activists for questioning, detention, imprisonment, debarring, and travel bans since it launched in July 2015.
Li Wenzu, whose lawyer husband Wang Quanzhang was jailed in the crackdown after spending years in pretrial detention, said she has also been targeted for eviction after police put pressure on her landlord.
"Our family also experienced persecution in the form of forcible relocation after July 2015," Li told RFA.
"The authorities target the families of dissidents and prisoners of conscience for eviction. It's a very common method, which is aimed at causing huge psychological pressure and trouble for us."
Beijing-based rights activist Ye Jinghuan agreed, saying the authorities were acting in a criminal manner.
"They have used such methods in all of the July 2015 cases to perpetrate violence against family members [of rights lawyers]," Ye said.
"It is appalling and criminal behavior."
Xie Yanyi was among hundreds of lawyers and associated rights activists detained during a nationwide police operation targeting the legal profession since July 2015.
He was later accused of "disciplinary violations" by a government-backed regulatory body, which has stripped a number of prominent rights lawyers of their livelihood by denying their licenses since the crackdown began.
Xie had earlier written to President Xi Jinping and other members of the all-powerful Politburo standing committee calling for an amnesty for political prisoners and democratic reforms. He has said he believes a democratic future is the only viable one for China.
He told RFA in a Jan. 6 interview that Xi has continued to expand the reach of government power into every area of people's lives, citing the recent criminal detention of Shanghai-based legal adviser and rights activist Hao Jinsong on charges of "picking quarrels and stirring up trouble," a charge frequently used by the ruling Chinese Communist Party to target peaceful critics of the government.
"Vested interests are getting more and more powerful, and it is getting harder and harder to restrain the financial and political elite using the law," Xie said. "This has been going on for more than a decade now, both at the local level and in the central government."
"There has been a huge swing to the [Maoist] left, including ever-stricter internet controls and censorship, across the whole political spectrum," he said.
Reported by Ng Yik-tung and Sing Man for RFA's Cantonese Service, and by Gao Feng for the Mandarin Service. Translated and edited by Luisetta Mudie.