Authorities in the Chinese capital have indicted two prominent rights lawyers on charges related to separatism and subversion, paving the way for an imminent trial, the indicted men's attorneys said.
Gao Guangqing, defense attorney for Beijing-based Pu Zhiqiang, who met with his client in the Beijing No. 1 Detention Center earlier this week, said the charges against him are more serious than the previous public order charges on which he was originally arrested, although those still remain.
"When I met with him, Pu Zhiqiang told me that there are now four charges against him: 'incitement to subvert state power,' 'incitement to separatism,' 'picking quarrels and stirring up trouble,' and 'illegally obtaining citizens' information,'" Gao told RFA.
"I am currently in touch with the prosecutors to get a copy of the indictment document," Gao said.
Pu was initially detained in early May after around 20 human rights lawyers, academics, and family members of victims attended a seminar in Beijing, where they called for a public inquiry into the June 4, 1989 crackdown on unarmed civilians at Tiananmen Square by the People's Liberation Army (PLA).
Former 1989 Tiananmen activist Pu was later formally arrested, but on the lesser, public order charges. He has defended several high-profile human rights cases in recent years.
His arrest came as dozens of activists and family members of victims of the 1989 crackdown on the student-led pro-democracy movement were also detained ahead of the sensitive 25th anniversary of the bloodshed.
However, many were held temporarily before being released, sometimes on "bail" and with conditions attached, including not speaking to overseas media.
An undated photo of Tang Jingling.
Photo courtesy of Tang's wife Wang Yanfang
Meanwhile, authorities in the southern city of Guangzhou have also moved ahead with the indictment of rights lawyer Tang Jingling, who was formally arrested in June on suspicion of "incitement to subvert state power," the overseas-based Chinese Human Rights Defenders (CHRD) group said in a statement on Thursday.
Tang is being held at the Guangzhou No. 1 Detention Center, and his trial is also believed to be imminent.
"The state security police told me that this case has already been transferred to the state prosecution service, and that I should go and apply for a meeting with my client," Tang's defense lawyer Liu Zhengqing told RFA.
"I am planning to get a meeting with him on [Friday] or Monday next week," Liu added.
Tang is one of three rights lawyers known as the "Guangzhou Three" to be arrested on the same subversion charges.
Tang, Wang Qingying, and Yuan Xinting were all criminally detained on May 16, initially for "picking quarrels and stirring up trouble."
But the charges were later changed to the more serious charge of "incitement to subvert state power."
Under Article 105, Paragraph 2, of China's 1997 Criminal Code, incitement can take the form of "rumor, slander or other means" to encourage subversion of the political power of the State or to overthrow the socialist system.
In cases where the defendant is judged to be a "ringleader," or if their crimes are considered particularly serious, the minimum jail term is five years.
Beijing-based rights lawyer Li Fangping, who has been following Tang's case, said that authorities appear ready to allow him visits from his lawyer.
"According to the rules, in cases of incitement to subvert state power, a lawyer should be allowed to visit their client during the prosecution stage of the case," Li said.Reported by Qiao Long for RFA's Mandarin Service, and by Pan Jiaqing for the Cantonese Service. Translated and written in English by Luisetta Mudie.