The wife of a Chinese rights lawyer detained on subversion charges during a nationwide police operation that launched in July 2015 has warned that she may be the next family member of a lawyer to be "disappeared."
In a message sent to Human Rights in China (HRIC), Li Heping's wife Wang Qiaoling said surveillance cameras have now been installed right in front of her apartment building, and that she is continually followed by state security police and unidentified personnel wherever she goes.
"The appearance of this cluster of cameras unnerves me, and I can’t help feeling frightened because no policemen had watched me even during the [annual parliament last month], and now I’m being tracked by cameras," Wang, recipient of the 2016 Franco-German Prize for Human Rights, said in a statement translated by HRIC and posted on their website.
"These days, family members, lawyers, and friends are continuously telling me things like: 'You’re in great danger,'" Wang wrote, adding that state security police had told a friend of hers that "she will definitely be detained because she has a political history."
Others were warned that they should cut off contact with Wang, because she had "crossed so many red lines."
"The cameras are staring at me; and there are several hefty guys ... tailing me," Wang wrote.
Wang said she has already arranged for the couple's young daughter to be taken to live with her grandparents, in the event that she "disappears."
"From this point forward, if I haven’t been heard from in more than an hour, it’s possible that I have been disappeared [by the authorities]," she said.
Thinking like a citizen
Wang said she had to thank the ruling Chinese Communist Party for forcing her to think like a citizen.
"This past year, I have never regretted anything that I did for my husband and family," she wrote. "Being arrested is actually an accomplishment for me: it will mark the transformation of a housewife who never used her brain ... into a citizen."
Calls to Wang Qiaoling's number rang unanswered during recent attempts to reach her.
Rights lawyer Yu Wensheng said he agreed that the outspoken Wang is in the greatest danger out of all of the relatives of detained rights lawyers.
"The authorities have placed Wang Qiaoling ... under heavy surveillance, so that she has already partly lost her liberty," Yu said. "There are no limits to what the government will do, so it's possible that they will take extreme measures."
"Disappearance or detention are both likely," he said. "The authorities don't even abide by their own laws."
Meanwhile, Li Heping's former defense lawyer Ma Lianshun said his boss has come under huge political pressure to withdraw from the case entirely.
"That's why he wouldn't let me represent Li Heping any more," Ma said. "They thought about it carefully, and then they told me I could act in an advisory capacity, but that I couldn't defend him any more."
"But they weren't accepting my credentials as his lawyer anyway, so I wouldn't have been able to be in court."
Reported by Xin Lin for RFA's Mandarin Service. Translated and edited by Luisetta Mudie.