The lawyer of legal activist Jiang Tianyong has been barred from seeing his client, as the time limit for Jiang’s secret detention expired.

A prominent rights defence figure in China, Jiang previously worked on numerous high-profile cases, most recently for the families affected by China’s crackdown on lawyers and rights activists. His disappearance in November prompted responses from rights groups, the UN and other countries.

Jiang Tianyong.
Jiang Tianyong. Photo: RFA.

Jiang has been officially held since December 1 at an unknown location under a form of secret detention known as “residential surveillance at a designated location” under suspicion of “inciting subversion of state power.” According to Chinese law, suspects can be held under this form of detention for six months without other legal procedures being taken.

Detainees held under this form of detention do not have access to their families or lawyers, which critics say can make them vulnerable to torture and other violations of their rights.

The note addressed to his two lawyers Chen Jinxue and Qin Chenshou said that Jiang would appoint another lawyer to replace them. It also said that he does not want to meet with Chen and Qin in person to confirm their dismissal.

Qin’s request to meet his client on Wednesday was denied by authorities. They told him that Jiang had dismissed him, and showed him a handwritten note from Jiang.

“They showed me a dismissal statement, they said it was written by Jiang. But I requested to see him to confirm it in person. The reception staff said they can’t make the decision, then refused and said we cannot meet him,” Qin told US-backed Radio Free Asia.

Jiang Tianyong.
Photo: RFA.

“Is this Jiang Tianyong’s true will? Or was it made under threats and duress? Of course we have to see him to know clearly. Right now of course we have reasonable doubts.”

See also: Video: Changsha police deny accusations that Chinese activist Jiang Tianyong was tortured

Receiving staff at the Changsha Public Security Bureau told Qin that they have issued a formal arrest notice for Jiang, and that they mailed a copy on Thursday to his father, Qin told HKFP.

The Hong Kong-based NGO China Human Rights Lawyers Concern Group said in its annual report, published on Thursday, that most of the lawyers detained in the crackdown were pressured by authorities to dismiss the defence lawyers hired by their families or pre-arranged to represent them.

“They were forced to accept lawyers appointed by the authorities, who proved to be unable to protect the defendants’ legal rights. During the investigation period, they often failed to submit evidence in favour of the defendants, they accepted evidence given by the prosecutors and gave up opportunities to question the defendants,” the NGO said.

Catherine is a Canadian journalist and photographer who lived in Beijing for almost two years, working in TV and online media. Aside from Hong Kong and mainland affairs, she is also interested in urban spaces, art and feminism. She holds a BA in Literature and Art History from the University of British Columbia.