Authorities in southwestern Chinese province of Sichuan have once more postponed the trial of four people who have been held in pretrial detention for three years for selling liquor with references to the 1989 Tiananmen massacre on the label.
Teahouse proprietor Fu Hailu was taken away by police in the provincial capital Chengdu in May 2016, after he and three others marketed the alcohol, which bore the words "June 4, 1989" and a cartoon of a man in front of an advancing column of tanks on the label. The label also says "Never forget, never give up."
According to another slogan on the bottle, the baijiu spirit had "matured for 27 years," the length of time since People's Liberation Army (PLA) troops put an end to weeks of student protests on Tiananmen Square, using tanks and machine guns on largely unarmed civilians.
Fu and fellow-defendants Luo Fuyu, Zhang Juanyong and Chen Bing were to have stood trial for "incitement to subvert state power" on Friday, but the trial has been postponed yet again, RFA has learned.
Fu's wife Liu Tianyan said she was informed of the decision by a government attorney appointed to defend her husband, but had yet to receive any official notification from the authorities.
"I really don't know, but I get the feeling they are backsliding, saying there'll be a trial, then not holding one," Liu said. "The lawyer also told me that they have no obligation to inform me of the details of any future trial."
"I am really worried, because I don't know what's going on," she said. "I don't even know if the relatives will be allowed to attend any trial."
Ran Tong, an attorney previously appointed to defend Fu by his family, declined to comment on the case when contacted by RFA on Friday.
"I want to emphasize that we are under very strict orders from the department of justice right now," Ran said. "All I can say, from a humanitarian point of view, is that defendants ... shouldn't be cut off from their families."
Calls to the Chengdu Intermediate People's Court, where the trial was to have been held, went unconnected during office hours on Friday.
China's Supreme People's Court is now permitted by an amendment to criminal procedure law to extend pretrial periods in certain cases, which lawyers say interfere with the right to a legal defense.
All four defendants are being held in the Chengdu Detention Center.
Media reports at the time said the drink had been designed for private circulation among groups of friends on social media, rather than for public sale.
China regularly implements nationwide security measures aimed at preventing any public memorials linked to the June 4 crackdown, which was styled a "counterrevolutionary rebellion" by the ruling Chinese Communist Party.
Reported by Wen Yuqing for the Cantonese Service, and by Gao Feng for the Mandarin Service. Translated and edited by Luisetta Mudie.