A Chinese lawyer has filed a formal information request to police in the northern city of Tianjin in a bid to find out the whereabouts of his lawyer, detained rights attorney Wang Yu, who has been held at an unknown location since the start of a nationwide crackdown on the legal profession.
Yu Wensheng filed the freedom of information request online on Saturday, calling on Tianjin police to reveal her location, and what crimes she is suspected of committing.
“Nobody knows what has happened to Wang Yu, and we only know that she was criminally detained through the media,” Yu told RFA. “Even her relatives and her defense attorneys don’t know.”
“Wang Yu was also my defense attorney, and because I am currently out on bail, from a legal perspective, I have an interest in her case, and I also believe I have a duty to understand her whereabouts and the nature of the charges against her,” he said.
“That’s why I filed the freedom of information request with the police.”
Since Wang’s detention amid a night-time raid on the Beijing-based Fengrui law firm on July 10, at least 255 lawyers, paralegals and legal support staff have been detained or questioned by Chinese police, the Hong Kong-based Chinese Human Rights Lawyers Concern Group said in a statement on its website.
Lawyers in undisclosed locations
Of those, 230 have since been released, but 12 lawyers and three non-lawyers are still being held in undisclosed locations, including Wang Yu, her husband Bao Longjun, and Fengrui colleagues Wang Quanzhang, Huang Liqun and Zhou Shifeng, it said.
China’s tightly controlled state media has accused the Fengrui lawyers of “troublemaking” and seeking to incite mass incidents by publicizing cases where they defend some of the most vulnerable groups in society.
According to Yu, the lack of information about Wang’s whereabouts contravenes China’s Criminal Procedure Law. “Such a large-scale detention of lawyers is also in breach of legal procedural regulations,” he said.
“I think they are trying to create a climate of fear for lawyers, so that some of them won’t dare to speak out, or may not take on human rights cases,” Yu said. “But I don’t think they will succeed in their aim.”
“Maybe some rights lawyers will be silenced, but even more will rise up in opposition, and still more will want to enter the profession of human rights lawyers,” he said.
Rights lawyer Chen Jiangang said that information on the whereabouts of detainees should be given to relatives and lawyers as a matter of course.
“Nobody should have to apply for it,” Chen said. “The police should formally notify the families within a time period specified by law, but China’s police don’t abide by the law at all nowadays.”
“Every step they take is against the law now.”
Fearless 'warrior' Wang
An officer who answered the phone at the Tianjin police department declined to comment on the case.
“For freedom of information requests, you need to contact the complaints department, or you can call them and try,” the officer said. “I don’t really know about this.”
The overseas-based Chinese Human Rights Defenders (CHRD) group said Wang Yu is described by those who know her as a courageous and fearless “warrior.”
“She has raced to the front lines of rights defense work in China to provide legal aid to those in need, regardless of how difficult or politically sensitive a case is,” it said in a statement on its website.
Wang has represented activists, scholars, members of the banned Falun Gong spiritual group, farmers who lost their land, forced evictees and petitioners seeking to protect their rights, those of women and children, and the right to freedom of religion, housing and of expression, CHRD said.
“Wang Yu has frequently been harassed, threatened, searched, and physically assaulted by police since she began to take on rights abuse cases in 2011,” it said
Meanwhile, authorities in the southern Chinese province of Guangdong detained rights activist Jia Pin after he tried to attend the subversion trial of the Guangzhou Three rights activists last week.
“Jia Pin turned out in support at the trial of Tang Jingling, and he was taken away by police at the gates to the court along with a lot of other people … from across the country,” a friend of Jia’s who asked to remain anonymous told RFA. “They are all safe and we have heard from all of them now, except for Jia Pin.”
“He was taken onto a train by six state security police officers, for escort back to his hometown, and we were able to talk with him by phone while he was on the train, but after he got off the train, they moved him to a state security police building in Nanyang, Henan province,” the friend said.
“There has been no word from him since, and we are all very worried; Jia Pin has done a lot of rights activism and the state security police from Nanyang have never come looking for him before, so we think things could go very badly for him this time,” the friend said.
Reported by Yang Fan for RFA’s Mandarin Service, and by Ka Pa and Dai Weisen for the Cantonese Service. Translated and written in English by Luisetta Mudie.