China has released two dissidents who served 10-year jail terms for subversion, but the authorities are keeping up the pressure on activists after the end of the annual parliamentary session.
Jin Haike, 34, was released from the Beijing No. 2 Prison, while Xu Wei, 37, was released from Yanqing Prison on Saturday.
Both are subject to two years of deprivation of political rights on top of their 10-year jail terms for “subversion of state power.”
"I went directly to meet him," said Jin's father Jin Jianguo. "The Beijing municipal government took us back home."
"He had a very hard time in prison, and he is in poor health," Jin's father said.
Fellow activist Yang Zili, who was one of the group known as the "four gentlemen" including Jin, Xu, and Zhang Honghai, said he and a group of friends had tried to meet Jin, but had been prevented by prison authorities, who were determined to escort the men home.
"They wouldn't tell us [where to go], so ... in the end we were stuck outside arguing with them," Yang said.
"We told them that they should let him go because people should have freedom of movement when they get out of jail."
"There was a confrontation, but no physical scuffle," he said.
Meanwhile, Xu was released on the same day from a prison in the western part of Beijing.
"We wanted to go to meet him, but the officials told us that we couldn't do that," said fellow Beijing-based activist Gao Hongming.
"We are still under surveillance right now," Gao said. "This has been going on since last month."
"There are police guarding our front door," he added. "We can't go anywhere."
The Chinese Human Rights Defenders website said Beijing authorities had imposed the same measures on a number of dissidents in the capital, including banned opposition party activists Zha Jianguo and He Depu, and dissident Hu Shigen.
Jin, a former geologist, and Xu, a former journalist, had both published essays on peaceful political reform and helped organize an informal study and discussion group, the “New Youth Society,” on expanding village elections and other democratic reforms.
They were detained during a raid by state security police on a meeting of the group in August 2000 after the authorities infiltrated it.
'No intent to subvert'
The "four gentlemen" were handed prison terms for subversion in September 2001, because the court judged that their essays and group meetings were an attempt to overthrow the ruling Communist Party.
According to a statement made during the trial by Yang, "the task of liberalizing society in no way implies an intention to subvert state power."
"When we speak of freedom and liberalization, we believe such changes come about through a process of reform," he told the court.
Freelance writer Zhang was sentenced to eight years and released along with Yang in March 2009.
Xu was transferred to Yanqing when the authorities began to treat him as a psychiatric patient after he went on hunger strike to protest his poor treatment in custody.
He was later transferred to Yanqing Prison, which houses mentally ill inmates, because the authorities claimed that he had psychological problems.
High level of security
Rights campaigners said that authorities have maintained a high level of security even after the end Monday of the annual session of the National People's Congress (NPC) in the Great Hall of the People in Beijing.
"A petitioner from Qingdao was still being kept under detention in Haining, Zhejiang province, even though the NPC was over," said Zhejiang-based activist Gao Hongyi.
"He was here petitioning during the NPC session, and they took him away the day it ended," Gao said.
Zhejiang-based opposition party activist Zou Wei said he had been taken away from his home during the weekend, as a preventive measures following repeated online calls for "Jasmine" protests inspired by recent uprisings in the Middle East.
"Right now it's the height of the "Jasmine" thing and the parliamentary sessions," Zou said.
"This also happened to most of the [China Democracy Party's] core members in Hangzhou," he added.
Reported by Wen Yuqing for RFA's Cantonese service and by Qiao Long for the Mandarin service. Translated and written in English by Luisetta Mudie.