|One of the lawyers said he suspected his association with activist and artist Ai Weiwei led to his detention [Reuters]
Two prominent Chinese human rights lawyers who had been detained by security officers as part of a broad crackdown on dissent have now been released and allowed to return to their homes in Beijing, the families have said.
Jiang Tianyong, a lawyer who has challenged the ruling Communist Party and is known for taking on sensitive rights-related cases, returned home on Tuesday after having disappeared for two months, Jin Bianling, his wife, said by telephone.
"He's skinnier now, but he's in good spirits," Jin said. She said she could not provide more details because it was "not convenient for him to talk".
Liu Xiaoyuan, another rights lawyer who had disappeared last week, was also released. He said he had been questioned during his five-day detention by police about his participation in civil society and the cases he had taken.
Liu declined to give details regarding his treatment by the police, but suggested that it was his association with detained Chinese activist and artist Ai Weiwei that had led to his own detention.
"I asked them whether my detention had to do with Ai Weiwei and they didn't tell me anything," he said.
"They knew I was Ai Weiwei's friend and they knew I was willing to represent him. Ai Weiwei has said before that if anything happens to him, he would want me to be his lawyer. My feeling is my detention could have been tied to that."
Liu said he had been seized by police last Thursday while at a friend's law firm. He added that he was still willing to represent Ai, who was taken away in early April for what the government has termed alleged "economic crimes".
'Over 50' in custody
Eighteen other lawyers, activists, and dissidents remain missing, according to Chinese Human Rights Defenders, a Hong Kong-based rights watchdog, while the total number of in police custody is over 50.
In Jiang's case, the United States had formally asked the Chinese authorities to stop the "extra legal" detention of lawyers and activists.
Teng Biao, another lawyer who disappeared about two months ago, remains untraceable. Wang Nin, his wife, has said that while she has been given no new information on him, the releases of Jiang and Liu have encouraged her.
"I think there's a little hope now that he might return," Wang said.
Of the detained activists and lawyers, CHRD says that nearly 40 have been criminally charged, many with subversion. Many others remain under house arrest, it says.
Attack on website
Hackers working in China, meanwhile, launched an attack on Change.org, a US-based social networking site for activists, forcing it offline sporadically.
Earlier, 93,000 people signed an online petition on the site calling for Ai's release, said Ben Rattray, the website's founder.
He said the hacks had been traced to Chinese IP addresses, and that his organisation would like "the Chinese government to ... condemn the actions of any entities within China trying to conduct attacks on foreign websites".