Authorities in the southern Chinese province of Guangdong have released Li Biyun, a prominent activist who tried to stand as a candidate in a local election, after holding her for more than a year on public order charges, but only after beating her and dumping her at a nearby roadside, she said.
A court in Guangdong's Shunde city found Li guilty of "obstructing civic duties" but sentenced her to the same amount of time she had already been held, and she was released from the court on Thursday.
Li, 47, who has already alleged torture at the hands of prison guards and police, was released from the police-run Shunde Detention Center, as there was no sentence for her to serve in prison.
But Li's sister Li Caiyun said she was later beaten by police and dumped at a roadside, rather than being allowed to wait for her family and lawyers to collect her.
"We had planned to go to meet her at the detention center," Li Caiyun told RFA. "A couple of villagers told me they saw my sister being thrown onto the roadside behind the Rongli Elementary School."
"They had put a motorcycle helmet on her and thrown her there," she said. "She can't walk now; she says she has broken a rib."
Li herself said she had been illegally detained for 14 months, and had expected to wait a further three months for her trial.
But the authorities had suddenly decided to sentence her and release her instead, she said.
"When I heard they had waived the rest of the sentence after illegally holding me for 14 months, I didn't cooperate," said Li.
"They jumped up to where I was standing and pinned me down. Then they took off my clothes and blindfolded me and took me away," she said.
Li said she plans to seek medical attention now that she has been released as well as find a lawyer to help her pursue compensation and sue those responsible for her treatment while in detention.
Her attorney Liu Hao said via social media that he had never seen a prisoner released before their lawyer was informed, in more than 10 years of practice as a lawyer.
"This was an illegal way to proceed," Liu wrote.
Li's lawyers say she has been subjected to severe mistreatment inside a military hospital, where she was refused medical treatment, a bath, or clean clothes for months on end.
She has repeatedly denied the public order charges and has lodged formal complaints about ill-treatment in custody.
Li has also described prolonged torture, including beatings, at the hands of the Shunde district police department since her formal arrest in September 2012
In 2011, Li joined dozens of political activists across China in a campaign to file applications to stand for election to district-level National People's Congress (NPC) bodies, in spite of official warnings that there is "no such thing" as an independent candidate.
Activists tried to use a clause in the election rules which allows anyone with the endorsement of at least 10 constituents to seek nomination.
Many of the candidates, like Li, hailed from the least privileged groups in Chinese society, including those who have been forcibly evicted from their homes or who have long campaigned for their legal rights.
Denial of care
Apart from a token group of "democratic parties" that never oppose or criticize the ruling party, opposition political parties are banned in China, and those who set them up are frequently handed lengthy jail terms.
Rights groups have warned that the ruling Chinese Communist Party is increasingly using the denial of medical care as a way of targeting rights activists and political prisoners while they are in police custody ahead of their trial.
Rights activist Cao Shunli died in hospital on March 14 after being refused the correct medical care in a Beijing detention center, her lawyer and relatives said at the time.
Reported by Wen Yuqing for RFA's Cantonese Service. Translated and written in English by Luisetta Mudie.