Authorities in the southern Chinese province of Guangdong are moving ahead with the trial of a netizen for "incitement to subvert state power" after he posted "sensitive" tweets to social media, his lawyer said.
Liang Qinhui, also known by his online nickname "Sharp Knife," was detained by police in Guangdong's provincial capital Guangzhou in April, and his case has now been transferred to the municipal state prosecution service, his fiancee told RFA on Tuesday.
"His case has already been transferred to the procuratorate for the indictment," Liang's fiancee, who gave only a surname Fu, said.
"It is all because of a single line of text he posted online," she said.
Liang's comment was an apparent reference to the Mao-era description of the United States as "capitalist running dogs," and comes against a background of underground satirical cartoons in the style of George Orwell's Animal Farm showing pigs dressed as ruling Chinese Communist Party officials.
"He said that he'd rather be an American dog than a Chinese pig," Fu said. "It says in the indictment that the charges against him are based on that one phrase."
Liang is accused of posting "sensitive and extreme" comments to the popular chatroom site QQ, according to the indictment, Fu said.
It also says his postings "show evidence of foreign influence," quoting his post as saying that he'd rather be an American dog than a Chinese person, she said.
The indictment also cites a post Liang wrote titled "I won't be a descendant of Marx and Lenin," which was posted on a public chatroom in QQ "attracting widespread public attention," Fu said.
Liang also stands accused of using circumvention tools, including Freegate, to access overseas websites normally blocked by China's censorship system, collectively known as the Great Firewall.
He also downloaded photos and altered them to include slogans calling on people to "save Chinese compatriots from the Chinese communist bandits," the indictment said.
Liang's lawyer Tan Chenshou rejected the charges against his client.
"This is really unbelievable," Tan said on Tuesday. "The charges say that Liang Qinhui edited some photos he downloaded and put them into his chatroom on QQ, for unspecified people to view, but whether or not these people were influenced by them, the indictment doesn't say."
"There is no evidence to show that they were," Tan said. "Personally, I don't think his actions amount to criminal behavior."
"This has to do with the ruling party's policies on limiting the scope of freedom of expression."
Tan said Liang has admitted to doing everything listed in the indictment, but says he hasn't broken any laws.
"He thinks that both the previous charge of picking quarrels and stirring up trouble, and the charge of incitement to subvert state power are unthinkable," Tan said.
Tan said that, for a trial to go ahead, the court must accept the case.
"We haven't heard any notification of any kind from the court yet," he said.
He said a trial looks unlikely until the subversion trial of the Guangzhou Three rights activists, including lawyer Tang Jingling, resumes after the defendants fired their defense team following a procedural dispute with judges earlier this month.
"I don't think they will set a trial date for this case until Tang Jingling's case has been tried," Tan said.
Free speech activist
Meanwhile, a lawyer for free speech activist Wu Gan, known online by his nickname "The Butcher," said police have now added the more serious "incitement to subvert state power" charge to his charge sheet.
Wu had been formally arrested on "embezzlement" charges by police in his hometown in the southeastern province of Fujian earlier this month.
Wu, who is being held in the Yongtai County No. 3 Detention center, is likely also being targeted for his outspoken views expressed via social media, lawyers said at the time.
Wang Yu, one of Wu's defense team, said she had been informed of the changes by the state prosecution office in the port city of Xiamen on Monday.
Now, Wu faces three charges: "incitement to subvert state power," "embezzlement," and "picking quarrels and stirring up trouble," Wang said.
"They've added incitement to subversion to the list now," Wang told RFA. "I think they are doing it so they can prevent visits from his lawyers during the investigation period."
Under Chinese law, cases involving alleged state secrets or national security offenses may be subject to greater restrictions on visits by defense attorneys.
But she dismissed the charge against Wu.
"For them to accuse an ordinary citizen of incitement to subversion through his actions ... is really ridiculous," Wang said.
Zhou Shifeng, Wu's former employer at the Beijing-based Fengrui public interest law firm, said he didn't give much credence to the subversion charge, either.
"From what I know of him, he is dissatisfied with the actions of specific state departments and their employees, which is normal," Zhou said.
"He wouldn't try to overthrow the government."
Reported by Qiao Long for RFA's Mandarin Service, and by Hai Nan for the Cantonese Service. Translated and written in English by Luisetta Mudie.