A 25-year-old former village official, who was ordered to serve two years in a re-education-through-labor institution for "attacking" the Chongqing municipal government's "red" campaign, had his appeal heard in court on Wednesday.
Ren Jianyu was placed in detention without a court hearing in August 2011 for writing and reposting some 100 comments criticizing the Chongqing government's heavy-handed crackdown on crime while celebrating songs of the revolution.
Ren mocked the campaign saying it could signal a return of the Cultural Revolution (1966-76).
Ren's father, Ren Shiliu, a migrant worker who put his son through university, filed an appeal of the detention order earlier this year.
The Chongqing No.3 Intermediate People's Court said it will take some time to reach a verdict due to the significant social implications of the case and the volume of evidence that must be verified.
"We did what we can," Pu Zhiqiang, Ren's attorney, told the Global Times after the hearing. "I don't think there are many things that need verification. The case is clear and Ren should be released from detention."
Pu said the re-education management committee asked the court to deny the appeal as the application was filed after the three-month deadline. Ren Shiliu told the Global Times that the authority turned away an appeal application he filed last year.
Ren's detention has sparked heated discussion on the Internet. Many said it is astounding that after so many years of modernization that people could still be detained for writing critical thought.
"What's scary is that as humans we all complain about the shortcomings of our governments. Ren's case shows that re-education through labor could be forced on any of us. It creates a sense of dread," a Sina Weibo user wrote.
Ren is not the only resident in Chongqing who lost his freedom for writings about the city's political policies and its leaders over the past year.
Fang Hong was detained by the local public security bureau in April 2011 for deriding Wang Lijun, who was Chongqing's police chief at the time.
Peng Hong, another Chongqing resident, was also given two years labor re-education for reposting comics that mocked the municipality's anti-gang campaign.
Both Bo Xilai and Wang Lijun were removed from their posts this year.
Photos of Ren's father weeping during a court recess Wednesday were widely circulated online.
"I want him to come home and I want his reputation restored," Ren Shiliu told the Global Times, adding that many people have offered help with the appeal.
Ren Shiliu said he has faith his son will find justice. "When he does, I want him to go back to his job so he can help others."