Following unconfirmed reports that she was sexually abused in detention, authorities in the northern Chinese city of Tianjin have transferred a legal assistant jailed during last year's nationwide police operation targeting human rights lawyers to an unknown location, RFA has learned.
Zhao Wei, also known by her nickname Kaola, was working as an assistant to top Beijing rights lawyer Li Heping at the time of her detention that started when several employees of the Fengrui law firm were detained on the night of July 9, 2015.
She was recently transferred from the police-run Tianjin No. 1 Detention Center, where she was being held on suspicion of "incitement to subvert state power," according to defense lawyer Ren Quanping.
Ren, who has been hired by Zhao's family but has been denied official recognition as her attorney, said officials had told him that "there is no one called Zhao Wei" in the detention center after he lodged an official complaint about not being allowed to visit her.
He said it is still unclear whether her case has moved to the prosecution stage or not.
"The official documents all indicate that she's in the Tianjin No. 1 Detention Center, but they told me verbally that she's not there, that there's no such person there," Ren said.
"I have to make further inquiries about this," he said.
Repeated calls to the Tianjin prosecutor's office rang unanswered during office hours on Monday.
Zhao's husband You Minglei has said he believes she has been sexually abused or mistreated to some degree while in detention, but he doesn't know the exact circumstances.
Dissident's wife vanishes
Meanwhile, activists in the central city of Wuhan have written an open letter to the city's police department in protest over the disappearance and illegal detention of Zhao Suli, wife of detained veteran democracy campaigner Qin Yongmin, who faces subversion charges.
Rights activist called on the ruling Chinese Communist Party to make public Zhao’s whereabouts.
Zhao disappeared several weeks after the couple were detained in January 2015 and hasn’t been seen for months, the lawyer said.
Qin last saw her when they parted 70 days after their initial detention, while her relatives say they fear for her life after a cryptic visit from state security police on April 6.
Activist Pan Lu, who works at the China Rights Observer group founded by Qin, said he believes the Qingshan district state security police chief Qu Zuoping knows more than he is willing to let on about Zhao's whereabouts.
"The Xingouqiao police station, which comes under the Qingshan district police department, is the one that is closest to Qin and Zhao's home," Pan said in an interview while under house arrest.
"They should bear the legal responsibility for this," he said.
Meanwhile, activist Li Xiangyang said more than 100 people have signed the open letter demanding information about Zhao Suli.
"I believe that many more people care about what happened [to her] and that as many as 1,000 people will want to sign," Li said.
Reported by Hai Nan for RFA's Cantonese Service, and by Qiao Long for the Mandarin Service. Translated and written in English by Luisetta Mudie.