More than two years after his "disappearance" amid a nationwide police operation targeting Chinese human rights lawyers in 2015, detained lawyer Wang Quanzhang continues to be denied access to a defense attorney.
Defense attorneys Lin Qilei and Cheng Hai, who were hired by Wang's family to represent him, were once more denied entry to the No. 1 Detention Center in the northern port city of Tianjin after they tried to visit him there this week.
"We went to the armed police sentry station [at the gates of the detention center] and they just kept telling us to wait," Lin told RFA. "We heard nothing."
"Then they told us we could leave or keep waiting there, but that they were shutting up for the day, and that we wouldn't be allowed to see [Wang]," he said.
Wang was initially detained amid a wave of police raids launched in July 2015 on suspicion of "incitement to subvert state power." Lawyers have made some 50 attempts to visit him in detention since then.
His case was passed over the prosecution last February, but no trial date has been forthcoming.
Wang's wife Li Wenzu has also been targeted for repeated harassment by police, who have forced her to leave rented accommodation several times since his detention, by putting pressure on her landlords.
Li told RFA that she believes her husband will refuse to "confess" to the charges against him, a course of action that has led to many other lawyers being released on bail, with continuing restrictions on themselves and their families.
"He is a very strong-minded person, who believes that all of his actions have been within the law, and that he hasn't broken the law in any way," she said. "I'm pretty sure he has refused to confess throughout the two years that they have had him locked up in there."
Fellow defense attorney Cheng Hai said Wang's defense team will continue to lodge complaints about being denied access to their client.
"All we can do is complain to the relevant departments, and to a higher court and a higher level of prosecutor, and to the Law Association," Cheng said. "The judiciary won't do anything, but we don't have a better plan."
"The problem in China right now is that we have laws, but they are not followed," he said.
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.
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.
‘At risk of torture’
Meanwhile, concerns are growing over the health and welfare of detained rights lawyer Li Yuhan, who is being subjected to ongoing mistreatment in a detention center in the northeastern city of Shenyang, rights activists say.
Li's defense attorney Li Boguang, who met with her on Monday, said fellow inmates recently threw food she bought on the latrine floor and urinated on it, while the authorities are refusing to supply medication, saying the family must bring it.
Li went missing on Oct. 9, and is "at risk of torture and other ill-treatment" in the police-run No. 1 Detention Center in the northeastern city of Shenyang, London-based Amnesty International has said.
Patrick Poon, China researcher for Amnesty International, said he is very concerned about Li Yuhan.
"She is already quite elderly, and there has been no sign of improvement in her situation since the last lawyer's visit," Poon said. "We are very angry and concerned."
"The guards in the detention center treat her awfully, and put her under huge physical and psychological pressure, which is torture for a woman in her sixties with a number of different illnesses," he said.
Reported by Yang Fan for RFA's Mandarin Service, and by Wong Lok-to for the Cantonese Service. Translated and edited by Luisetta Mudie.