Hundreds of activists in Shanghai launched a campaign this week to send greetings cards to jailed Nobel Peace prize winner Liu Xiaobo ahead of Chinese New Year, the biggest festival in the calendar, when families are traditionally reunited.
While millions across China will take to overcrowded trains, planes, and buses to welcome the lunar Year of the Horse with extended family, those who fell afoul of the ruling Chinese Communist Party will have little to celebrate.
"When Chinese people celebrate the new year, it is customary to send greetings and good wishes to each other," Shanghai-based activist Shen Peilan, who has herself been repeatedly detained and held under house arrest after she campaigned to remove top officials in the Shanghai municipal government, told RFA.
"Liu Xiaobo is behind bars and is serving a heavy jail sentence of 11 years, so we wanted him to know that people outside wish him well," she said, adding that around 300 Shanghai-based petitioners have joined the campaign.
Liu Xiaobo, 57, a literary critic and former professor, was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2010 "for his long and non-violent struggle for fundamental human rights in China" in a decision that infuriated Beijing, which says he has broken Chinese law.
He has been held since 2008 after helping to draft Charter 08, a manifesto calling for sweeping changes in China's government that was signed by thousands of netizens, and is serving an 11-year prison sentence for "inciting subversion of state power."
His wife Liu Xia, 54, remains incommunicado and under strict house arrest at the couple's home in Beijing, where she has been held since her husband's award was announced.
"We hope [Liu Xiaobo] is in good health, and we want him to know people care about him," Shen said.
A second Shanghai activist, Ding Taoying, called on the Chinese authorities to release Liu Xiaobo immediately from his prison in the northeastern province of Liaoning, and end their persecution of Liu Xia.
"We want Liu Xiabo ... to know that everyone is thinking about him, and cares about him, even though he can't be with us because he's all alone and helpless in jail," Ding said.
"We hope to show him some support through these [new year] greetings cards, so he knows he has a lot of supporters on the outside," she said.
Call for medical attention for political prisoners
Meanwhile, Chinese activists in Germany called for more dissidents to be allowed overseas to seek medical attention, following the arrival of veteran pro-democracy activist Chen Ziming in the U.S. last week.
Chen Ziming, like Liu Xiaobo, had served a long jail term in the wake of the 1989 military crackdown on the student-led pro-democracy movement.
Diagnosed last December with advanced pancreatic cancer, Chen arrived at Boston's Logan International Airport on Jan. 18.
Germany-based rights activist Wang Wanxing, founder of the Germany-based European Working Group on Mental Health in China, said the group is now focusing on a campaign for the release of jailed Inner Mongolian dissident Hada.
"Hada has ... suffered a great deal [over the past 30 years], and the oppression suffered by his family is also very serious," Wang said. "And yet there is not enough concern about him in the international community."
He said he hoped the campaign for Hada would also focus world attention on the plight of other ethnic Mongolian, Tibetan, and Uyghur political prisoners.
"I am very happy that Chen Ziming was able to leave [China] on medical parole, and wish him the best with his treatment," said Wang, who was incarcerated in a police mental hospital for 13 years after he called on the government to overturn its official verdict on the 1989 student-led pro-democracy movement in Tiananmen Square.
Diagnosed with "paranoia" and "political monomania" after he unfurled a banner in Tiananmen Square on the third anniversary of the June 4 bloody crackdown, Wang described widespread abuses during his time there, including living alongside patients with violent psychotic disturbances and being force-fed psychoactive drugs.
Reported by Fung Yat-yiu for RFA's Cantonese Service and by Tian Yi and Yang Jiadai for the Mandarin Service. Translated and written in English by Luisetta Mudie.