Detained Chinese rights lawyer Wang Quanzhang is scheduled to appear in court on Wednesday accused of subversion, but his wife won't be permitted to attend the trial, RFA has learned.
Wang's wife Li Wenzu said she was stopped by state security police as she took the couple's child to school from their Beijing home on Tuesday, and warned not to try to attend the trial.
Li, who last week protested Wang's continued detention with a shaved head outside Beijing's Supreme People's Court, is now under close surveillance, with police preventing her friends from visiting, she said.
"The state security police came here and told me that I shouldn't travel to Tianjin, because I wouldn't be allowed to sit in the gallery," Li said.
Wang is to appear at the Tianjin No. 2 Intermediate People's Court, which has held him far beyond legally allowed time limits, according to Li and fellow rights lawyers.
"I just looked out of the window, and saw that there are about five police cars downstairs, all with police in them, so there are huge obstacles to my going to Tianjin [on Wednesday]," she said. "I will try going out tomorrow, because I should be free to attend the trial."
"They are breaking the law, and they don't really have any reason for this that would pass muster," Li said.
Calls to the police department in Li's home district of Shijingshan rang unanswered during office hours on Tuesday. Christmas Day isn't a public holiday in China.
Police prevent visit
Beijing-based rights lawyer Xie Yanyi said he had been prevented from visiting Li on Tuesday by state security police.
"I was just about to get on the bus, when they came and stopped me," Xie said. "The state security police told me that Wang Quanzhang's trial won't be public; it'll be held in secret."
"Even if I went, I wouldn't be able to get in," he said. "They also threatened me, warning that there would be serious consequences if I did try to go."
"I'm back home now," Xie said.
Hunan-based rights activist He Jiawei said dozens of rights activists were planning to travel to Tianjin for Wang's trial, with some managing to arrive in the city by train without being stopped.
But he said state security police had called him en route and told him to return home immediately, or face "serious consequences."
"They called me to tell me to go back immediately," He said. "They didn't give a reason, but they said it would be on my head if I didn't go back home in a hurry."
But he said he hadn't complied with the request.
"I'm worried about being detained now, but I plan to go to the court anyway, and if I can't get in, I'll hold up a banner," he said.
Fellow attorney Huang Hanzhong said Wang is unlikely to get any kind of fair trial in Tianjin on Wednesday.
"We don't have very high hopes for a case like this," Huang said. "They are holding the trial at Christmas time to minimize the interest from overseas."
No hope of a fair trial
Rights activist Ye Jinghuan said the authorities have also detained Liu Ermin, wife of detained rights activist Zhai Yanmin, who shaved her head alongside Li Wenzu in last week's protest.
"Liu Ermin has been detained and taken away," Ye said. "There is no way that this trial is going to be fair, because the authorities have already broken criminal procedure law."
"They have totally broken the law, especially the court," he said.
Li protested along with three other women outside the Supreme People's Court with the saying: "I can go without hair, but you can't go without the law."
The phrase, attributed to a Buddhist monk, puns on the similarity of the words for "hair" and "law" in Mandarin Chinese.
Li was joined in the protest by Yuan Shanshan, wife of rights lawyer Xie Yanyi, Wang Qiaoling, wife of rights lawyer Li Heping and Liu Ermin, wife of rights activist Zhai Yanmin.
The women gathered outside the Supreme People's Court in Beijing on Monday, where they presented a letter calling on the court to investigate the actions of two judges at the Tianjin No. 2 Intermediate People's Court, which has held Wang far beyond legally allowed time limits.
Wang's case was sent to the Tianjin No. 2 People's Court on Feb. 14, 2017, and he should have then stood trial for subversion, but presiding judges Lin Kun and Zhou Hong had dragged their feet on the case, leaving him in pretrial detention far beyond the legal maximum, Li said.
Last month, Li was awarded Sweden's Edelstam Prize for "exceptional courage" in defending human rights, but the prize was presented to U.S.-based activist Yuan Weijing in her place, as Li was prevented from traveling to Stockholm to receive the award in person.
Wang, who has been held in police detention without trial for three years, has been forced to take medication while in the custody of the Tianjin No. 1 Detention Center, his attorney Liu Weiguo said after being allowed to visit his client for the first time in July.
According to international law, family members of the disappeared are recognized as victims of enforced disappearance as well.
Reported by Wong Lok-to and Wen Yuqing for RFA's Cantonese Service, and by Han Jie for the Mandarin Service. Translated and edited by Luisetta Mudie.