A Guangzhou court has dismissed an activist's attempt to overturn his punishment last year for trying to publicly mark the anniversary of the bloody Tiananmen Square crackdown in 1989.
Li Weiguo, 43, was detained for 15 days on charges of inciting an illegal gathering after he filed an application to hold a candlelight vigil and march in the provincial capital on June 4.
Li, who is a Hong Kong resident, asked the Haizhou District People's Court to overturn the detention order, questioning its legality. His application was dismissed after 45 minutes of what Li's lawyer called an "illegal court proceeding".
Nonetheless, the lawyer, Chen Jinxue, said the case represented a breakthrough, since any discussion of the June 4 incident was taboo on the mainland.
"It's rare to see a case relating to June 4 being heard in a mainland court," he said. "This could be the first time for the events of June 4 to appear in official legal documents. June 4 doesn't have to be a taboo forever."
Li spent a year in detention after taking part in pro-democracy demonstrations in Guangzhou in 1989.
He plans to appeal against yesterday's ruling.
Li was accused of passing protest-application forms to two friends on May 17 last year and announcing his decision to hand in a protest application on May 21, according to court documents. Police also accused Li of using social media to incite the public to join the planned vigil.
Li's lawyer said there had been no need to detain his client as he had only submitted an application to march, which did not constitute inciting an illegal gathering.
A reporter, a legal representative and friends of Li were barred from attending the hearing at the Haizhou court. A heavy police presence was visible outside.
"We were also denied being able to read evidence collected by Haizhou police. This was an illegal court proceeding," Chen said. "The court also illegally banned outsiders from sitting in for the hearing when there were plenty of spare seats."