The Year of the Rabbit will bring little to celebrate for many Chinese political activists, including jailed Nobel peace laureate Liu Xiaobo, whose relatives have been prevented from seeing him ahead of the lunar new year.
"I haven't heard anything ... I have no news about the case," said Liu's lawyer Ding Xikui.
"I haven't seen [Liu] since my last visit with him last April."
Liu's wife, Liu Xia, has been held under house arrest and cut off from communication with the outside world since his award was announced in Oslo on Oct. 8.
"I haven't managed to contact [Liu Xia], either," Ding added.
Liu's brother Liu Xiaoxuan said the authorities had given the family no reply to repeated requests to visit the dissident, who is serving an 11-year jail term for subversion in northeastern China.
"They haven't told us yet [whether or not we can visit,]" Liu Xiaoxuan said.
"We asked them about it some time ago," he added.
A time for reunions
Chinese will usher in the Year of the Rabbit on Feb. 3 with tradition Lunar New Year celebrations and family reunions.
The dissident's family said they were also denied permission to visit Liu on his 55th birthday, which fell on Dec. 28.
While the 2010 Nobel Peace Prize was awarded in absentia to Liu Xiaobo, who was represented at the ceremony by an empty chair, Chinese police maintain tight restrictions on a number of prominent rights activists linked to the jailed dissident, as well as their families.
Beijing stepped up pressure on political activists around the country when Liu, currently serving an 11-year jail term for subversion, was named the Nobel prize recipient.
The award sparked a nationwide clampdown on anyone having a connection with Liu or the Charter 08 political blueprint, which he co-authored.
Harassed in jail
Meanwhile, the wife of jailed environmental activist Tan Zuoren said he was being forced to do cleaning work instead of joining the other prisoners in the workshop.
"He has to do whatever they tell him," said Wang Qinghua, who visited Tan 10 days ago. "He doesn't have a formal job."
Tan was handed a five-year jail term on Feb. 9, 2010 for "inciting subversion of state power."
Tan, 55, a freelance writer, editor, and activist, was arrested in Chengdu on March 28.
Tan's conviction was linked to an article he wrote about the military crackdown on the 1989 pro-democracy demonstrations in Tiananmen Square.
But it also came after he began probing claims that shoddy construction was to blame for the deaths of thousands of schoolchildren in the 2008 Sichuan earthquake.
The authorities are expecting that around 700 million people will travel across China to be with their families during the "spring rush," which some say is the largest mass movement of people on the planet.
Reported by Qiao Long for RFA's Mandarin service. Translated and written in English by Luisetta Mudie.