Authorities in the central Chinese province of Hubei on Wednesday questioned the wife of 'disappeared' human rights lawyer Wang Quanzhang, amid an ongoing operation targeting rights lawyers and their families nationwide.
Several unidentified officials arrived at the parental home of Wang's wife Li Wenzu in Hubei's Shijingshan city, demanding to see her registration papers, she told RFA.
"Three people came this morning saying that they were employees of the residential compound, and that we had to register," Li said. "Then they took away my household registration book."
"They wanted to see who was living in my home now, and they started secretly filming from the moment they got inside the door," she said.
"A few minutes later, four police officers came along, without any paperwork at all or showing me any ID, nor would they tell me their police numbers," she said.
"They said someone had called the police and they were acting on the basis of a tip-off, but they left after I'd argued with them for a while," Li said.
Li said she has been under close surveillance by police since she arrived back in her hometown in Hubei on Oct. 1.
Wang Quangzhang has been held at an unknown location without trial or access to a family-appointed lawyer or family visits for more than two years after being detained in a nationwide July 2015 police operation targeting rights lawyers and associated activists.
In June, the Beijing branch of the China Law Association contacted his defense attorney Yu Wensheng to inform him that he is no longer instructed to act for his client, and that a government lawyer has been appointed for him.
Wang once worked for the now-shuttered Fengrui law firm that was the first target of police raids and detentions in July 2015 that broadened into a nationwide operation targeting more than 300 lawyers, law firm staff and associated rights activists for detention, professional sanctions, house arrest, and travel bans, including for family members.
Parents also targeted
The couple's elderly parents have also been targeted by local officials for "ideological work" that generally consists of attempts to stop people from speaking up for their rights and those of loved ones.
Li and Wang Qiaoling, wife of detained rights lawyer Li Heping, have been repeatedly hounded from several apartments they rented together after their husbands' detention.
Each time, their landlords issued an eviction notice after a visit from state security police, they have previously told RFA.
Li said she was forced to move back to her hometown of Shijingshan after the last eviction.
"The landlord just kept on telling us to leave, and we kept putting it off and putting it off until finally the lease was up, and they wouldn't renew it," she said in an interview in late September.
Li arrived at her apartment to find the door locked up, the phone line dead and the power cut off, she said.
"These people are evil, and have gone out of their way to create every kind of trouble," she said in an interview on Sept. 22.
On Wednesday, Yuan Shanshan, wife of detained rights lawyer Xie Yanyi, said families of those detained in the July 2015 crackdown still face regular harassment from the authorities.
"I don't think they have any respect for the law, because they know very well that they are breaking it, but they carry on doing it to achieve certain aims," Yuan said. "And it's not just breaking the law; it's also antihumanitarian."
"They are behaving rather inhumanely towards these people," she said.
The New York City Bar Association has said the crackdown amounts to nothing less than a "war on law."
Detained lawyers have reported being humiliated, subjected to lengthy interrogation sessions and physical torture, including sleep deprivation, beatings, electric shocks, and forced medication, as well as months of solitary confinement, the group said in July.
Reported by Yang Fan for RFA's Mandarin Service, and by Ng Yik-tung and Wen Yuqing for the Cantonese Service. Translated and edited by Luisetta Mudie.