However, a court rejected Rens lawsuit against the local re-education through labor committee the next day. His lawyer, Pu Zhiqiang, cautioned against reaching any broad conclusions about a shift in Chinas approach to the rule of law in the context of Rens release.
Currently, re-education through labor is still a major measure in maintaining stability. They wont abandon it easily, Pu said in a phone interview.
Also this week, authorities in the southern province of Guizhou temporarily banished a man named Li Yuanlong. Li had published online accounts about five boys, from 9 to 13 years old, who were found dead in a trash bin last week. Authorities said the boys had suffocated from the smoke of a fire theyd started to keep warm.
The news of their deaths created a backlash and touched on public anger about the perceived lack of care given to the nations vulnerable. Eight government and education officials were suspended or fired in the aftermath, according to state-run media.
Hoping to prevent Li, a former journalist previously imprisoned for his writings, from posting more information or talking with the press, local officials told him he had to leave until the matter blows over, said Li Fangping, a rights attorney who knows him. Hes said to have left the province for an undisclosed location -- it's unclear whether he did so in the company of security officials.
The use of forced vacations is an extrajudicial tactic that police and officials commonly use when dealing with activists. The demand for stability can overpower the law, Li Fangping said.
He said he didnt foresee much chance of that changing under Xis leadership: I only hope that the situation doesnt become worse.