Prominent Chinese rights lawyer Wang Yu, who was 'released' on bail last August after being held for more than a year on subversion charges, has been under tight surveillance akin to house arrest along with her whole family ever since, her lawyer told RFA on Wednesday.
Two years after police launched a nationwide operation targeting lawyers, Wang Yu and her husband and colleague Bao Longjun are now living in the northern region of Inner Mongolia along with their son Bao Zhuoxuan, and are seldom seen or contacted by friends or former colleagues.
Repeated attempts to reach Wang and Bao on their previous cell phone numbers resulted in "number unobtainable" messages or busy signals this week.
However, the family reportedly traveled to Tianjin in late June to visit relatives, but remained under close surveillance by state security police during the trip, and returned to Inner Mongolia's Ulaanhot city on June 30, sources told RFA.
"They are still not free," fellow rights lawyer Wen Donghai, who has met with Wang since her "release," told RFA. "There is even surveillance in their bedroom, and there is a team of people watching them around the clock."
"That team follows them wherever they go."
Wen said the couple's son, who was slapped with a travel ban after planning to attend a high school in the United States, has been barred from taking up a place at a Beijing school.
"According to the rules, their bail period should be up on July 22, after which the authorities should unconditionally drop the charges against them," he said. "They should regain their freedom in the next couple of weeks, but it doesn't look as if that's what the authorities are getting ready to do."
Bao's defense lawyer Huang Hanzhong said the inclusion of the couple's son in the surveillance regime is indefensible.
"At least there is still a criminal case pending against Bao Longjun and Wang Yu, but their son Bao Zhuoxuan isn't a suspect in any criminal case," Huang said. "He should be allowed the freedom to travel and to study."
"Nobody out of the three of them is free," he said. "This is a serious violation of their rights as citizens, and an illegal act."
Rights groups say several individuals 'released' following the crackdown that began with Wang's detention on July 9, 2015 are still being held incommunicado.
Meanwhile, others who were granted "bail," including legal assistant Zhao Wei, have also remained under surveillance, and haven't been in touch with their usual social circle since leaving the detention center.
Overseas rights groups said they would mark the anniversary of the crackdown on rights lawyers by designating July 9 Chinese Lawyers' Day.
"As prominent representatives of Chinese lawyers, human rights lawyers have been the target of the Chinese government’s persecution since the beginning of the rights defense movement," a consortium of groups including the Chinese Human Rights Lawyers Concern Group said in a statement.
"They’ve had their licenses to practice law revoked, they’ve been followed, threatened, publicly slandered by state media, abducted, disappeared, sent to forced labor camps, imprisoned for lengthy periods, and tortured," the statement said.
"Persecution has become commonplace," the groups said, announcing plans for an inaugural event on July 9 in Washington.
Concerns are growing for the safety of dozens of human rights lawyers and associates locked up in an unknown location by the Chinese authorities in a crackdown that started in July 2015.
Following a nationwide operation targeting rights lawyers, activists, their families, and employees, at least 19 of the more than 300 detained, questioned, or otherwise affected were held on suspicion of subversion with no access to a lawyer.
Reported by Ding Wenqi for RFA's Mandarin Service. Translated and edited by Luisetta Mudie.