Legal scholar Xu Zhiyong missed his daughter's birth last week. The human rights advocate is unlikely to rejoin his family for next week's Chinese new year, nor for the next five years.
Detained since July, Xu enters a Beijing courtroom Wednesday in the first of a rapid series of trials to punish numerous activists who tried to expose corruption and promote government transparency in China.
Both aims are stated goals of Communist Party leader Xi Jinping, but the trials this week of up to nine activists show that the non-elected rulers of the world's second-largest economy continue to abuse Chinese law to squash civil society, said legal experts and human rights groups.
In the first and most prominent case, Xu Zhiyong, 40, faces a five-year sentence for what his lawyers say are trumped-up charges meant to punish Xu for his expressed belief that one-party China should establish a liberal system of constitutional democracy.