Authorities in the central Chinese province of Hunan have installed a large, locked gate outside the apartment of tortured Chinese rights lawyer Xie Yang, who has been incommunicado since his "release on bail" on May 8, his wife told RFA.
Xie was officially released after pleading guilty to subversion charges at a court in Hunan's provincial capital Changsha, but his U.S.-based wife Chen Guiqiu, who narrowly escaped repatriation with the couple's two daughters after seeking asylum in Bangkok, says her husband is far from free.
"The special case team rented the apartment opposite ours, and now they have installed a security barrier and door in between them," Chen told RFA in a recent interview.
"Their aim is to hold Xie Yang under house arrest," she said, adding: "If people want to go and take a selfie outside apartment 1401 in Block 3-23 of the Hunan University lecturers' compound, they will see just how our so-called 'society ruled by law' treats a recently released human rights lawyer."
Xie's friend and fellow activist Ou Biaofeng said the authorities want to ensure that Xie Yang, who has been denied permission to travel to the United States to be reunited with his family, has no communication with the outside world.
"[Xie] broke what was an unlawful agreement with the authorities and gave an interview to the foreign media, after being banned from communicating with the outside world," Ou told RFA. "I have been trying to call him this whole time but he isn't picking up, and he doesn't reply when I leave messages, either."
"He has been completely cut off from the outside world, and is under surveillance," he said. "His friends aren't allowed to visit him."
"As a friend of Xie Yang's, I strongly condemn this situation."
Tortured in custody
The new "home prison" comes after Xie officially returned to work at the Changsha Weigang law firm on July 13, after appearing briefly on social media in early July, chatting with legal colleagues and sharing photographs of meetings with friends.
He told RFA in a brief interview following his release that he had "done a deal" with the authorities, which included a ban on speaking out about his treatment in detention.
Rights activists have repeatedly called for Xie's release in recent months, detailing his lawyers' reports of his torture in a police-run detention center in the central province of Hunan.
Initially detained on July 11, 2015, Xie was held under "residential surveillance at a designated location" in a government guesthouse belonging to the National University of Defense Technology in Hunan's provincial capital, Changsha.
Subjected to abuse including deprivation of food and water, Xie was tortured again after being moved to the police-run Changsha No. 2 Detention Center following his formal arrest on Jan. 9, 2016.
Xie was subjected to confinement in a "hanging chair" made of plastic chairs stacked high above the ground for hours at a time, so that his legs swelled up and he was in excruciating pain, he told his lawyers.
He was also deprived of sleep and repeatedly beaten, humiliated, and taunted with death threats against his family, according to copious and detailed notes made public from meetings with his lawyers.
But he later read out a prepared statement that was broadcast on state media, denying that he had been tortured, and calling on Chinese rights lawyers, hundreds of whom have been detained or placed under surveillance or travel bans since July 2015, to stop talking to the foreign media.
Meanwhile, the seven-year-old son of Beijing human rights lawyer Chen Jiangang, who exposed Xie's torture, has been denied a basic education by the authorities, Chen's wife Zou Shaomei told RFA.
An employee who answered the phone at the Tongzhou Shuren private elementary school, where the family had turned after being denied a place in a state school, confirmed it had rejected the application from Chen Zhongjing, but declined to say why.
"You will have to ask the [ruling Chinese Communist Party's] education committee or other relevant departments," the employee said.
An official who answered the phone at the Tongzhou Educational Affairs Bureau denied the order had come from them, however.
"We will have to look into it," the official said. "But an order to prevent an individual child from obtaining a school place isn't likely to have come from the education committee."
"If the child has the required five documents, then enrolling in school shouldn't be a problem."
Reported by Xin Lin for RFA's Mandarin Service, and by Ng Yik-tung and Sing Man for the Cantonese Service. Translated and edited by Luisetta Mudie.