Authorities in the Chinese capital have placed under criminal detention the lawyer and relative of detained human rights attorney Pu Zhiqiang, as well as a prominent rights lawyer based in the southern city of Guangzhou, lawyers and rights groups said.
Qu Zhenhong, Pu's niece and legal representative, is being held by Beijing police on suspicion of "illegally gathering citizens' information," her colleague and lawyer Zhang Sizhi told RFA.
"They said she is being held under criminal detention," Zhang said. "Originally, I thought it was because of the Pu case, but the charges don't seem to fit, so it's hard to say."
Zhang said the detention center where Qu is being held had turned down his request for a meeting with her for a second time on Thursday.
Meanwhile, Chinese police on Friday detained prominent rights lawyer Tang Jingling on charges of "causing a disturbance."
Chinese authorities have detained and questioned dozens of activists and family members of victims of the 1989 military crackdown on the Tiananmen Square student-led pro-democracy movement after they held a seminar to mark the sensitive 25th anniversary.
Around 20 human rights lawyers, academics, and family members of victims attended the May 3 seminar in Beijing, where they called for a public inquiry into the crackdown on unarmed civilians by the People's Liberation Army (PLA).
Some of those questioned were subsequently released, but Pu Zhiqiang and four other activists—online writer Liu Di, social scientist Xu Youyu, house church leader and democracy activist Hu Shigen, and Beijing Film Academy professor Hao Jian—were held on public order charges last week.
Tang, who also attended the seminar, is the sixth of the seminar group to be charged and held under criminal detention.
Meanwhile, a lawyer for outspoken writer Liu Di, who is being held on suspicion of "picking quarrels and stirring up trouble," said the authorities had repeatedly declined his requests for a meeting with his client, although Xu, Pu, Hu and Hao had already met with their attorneys.
"I had arranged to meet [with Liu] last Friday, but when I got there, they said her case had been sent for arraignment," lawyer Ma Gangquan said, in a reference to the formal reading of charges to pave the way for a trial.
"So I rescheduled it for Monday, but they called me back the same day and said she had been taken away again," Ma said.
"[On Thursday], it was the same excuse."
He said the refusal to allow a meeting with Liu Di wasn't legal.
"It's an excuse, 100 percent," Ma said. "The rules on lawyers state clearly that any request by a lawyer for a meeting with a suspect must be met within 48 hours."
Meanwhile, Henan-based rights lawyer Jia Lingmin, who has represented victims of forced evictions, was finally able to meet with her lawyer on Wednesday after a week of hunger strike under criminal detention.
Her lawyer Lin Qilei said Jia had refused food for seven days in protest at the refusal of her right to meet with a lawyer.
"She is still walking unsteadily, but there's nothing wrong with her mental state," Lin said. "She still speaks with plenty of animation."
"The main point [of her hunger strike] was to protest that the police were breaking the law, in refusing to allow her a meeting with her lawyer."
"Now she has met with a lawyer, she has gone back to eating her food."
Lin said police had been holding Jia under a false name, possibly as a way of deterring visits from lawyers.
String of charges
The detentions are the latest in a string of similar charges against activists, lawyers and journalists widely regarded as moderately critical of the ruling Chinese Communist Party.
Earlier this month, authorities in Beijing placed outspoken veteran journalist Gao Yu under criminal detention on charges of leaking state secrets.
Meanwhile, freelance journalist Xiang Nanfu was criminally detained for "picking quarrels and stirring up trouble" after he contributed sensitive stories to the overseas-based Boxun news website.
Reported by Grace Kei Lai-see for RFA's Cantonese Service, and by Xin Yu for the Mandarin Service. Translated and written in English by Luisetta Mudie.