Wife of Detained Chinese Rights Lawyer Stages Protest, Meets Diplomats

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china-wangquanzhang3-110818.jpg Detained Chinese human rights lawyer Wang Quanzhang is shown in an undated photo.
Independent Chinese PEN

The wife of detained Chinese rights lawyer Wang Quanzhang, who has been held incommunicado without trial since 2015, has staged a protest for his release in the northern city of Tianjin, she said on her Twitter account.

Li Wenzu showed up at the Tianjin No. 2 Intermediate People's Court at around 9.00 a.m. on Thursday alongside fellow activists, all of whom were wearing T-shirts printed with her husband's photo and the slogan "Free Quanzhang!"

Video of the encounter showed Li protesting with uniformed police outside a security checkpoint, saying: "You won't let me in just because I'm wearing this shirt, right?"

"They told me to wait outside, then said they'd get their boss. When their boss arrived, he said we could only go inside if I did up my jacket to hide the T-shirt."

"We refused, with a single voice," Li wrote, adding that they were later allowed into the lobby of the court buildings, where they removed their jackets to reveal their T-shirts.

Li's protest, however small-scale, comes after human rights experts at the United Nations found the ruling Chinese Communist Party's continued detention of Wang and fellow rights attorneys Jiang Tianyong and Li Yuhan to be arbitrary and unwarranted under international human rights law.

Earlier this week, Li met with diplomats from Britain, the United States, Germany, Canada, Switzerland, and other European Union countries, she tweeted.

"We were fortunate enough to meet with [the diplomats] on the morning of Nov. 5," Li tweeted. "The main topic of our conversation was an update on Wang Quanzhang's case, and the submission of letters from various diplomats to human rights officials."

Outcome uncertain

Li later told RFA in a brief interview that it was hard to judge how the meetings might affect the outcome of Wang's case.

"It's very hard to say," Li said. "But we have had a lot of support from these countries ... and the U.S. and the U.K. both clearly referred to Wang Quanzhang's case during the Universal Periodic Review [at the U.N. in Geneva], calling for his release."

Human rights lawyers, who frequently represent vulnerable clients or cases deemed politically sensitive by the authorities, continue to be targeted under the administration of President Xi Jinping, which has launched a nationwide crackdown on the profession since July 2015.

Wang Quanzhang has been held incommunicado for the past three years on subversion charges, while rights lawyer Jiang Tianyong was sentenced to two years' imprisonment on subversion charges in November 2017. His family says Jiang has been force-fed unidentified medication and now suffers from memory loss.

Meanwhile, concerns are growing over the health of detained Chinese rights lawyer Li Yuhan, who is suffering from multiple health problems amid a current heat-wave after months of pretrial detention in the northeastern province of Liaoning.

Human rights experts at the U.N. currently reviewing Beijing's rights record found that "the deprivation of liberty of Wang Quanzhang, Jiang Tianyong and Li Yuhan, being in contravention of articles 9, 10, 11 and 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, is arbitrary."

"The appropriate remedy would be to release Mr. Wang, Mr. Jiang and Ms. Li immediately and accord them an enforceable right to compensation and other reparations, in accordance with international law," the working group on human rights said in a draft statement issued on Wednesday.

Call to release

International rights groups have repeatedly called on China to release all human rights lawyers who remain behind bars, after more than 300 lawyers, law firm employees, and activists were detained and questioned in the crackdown.

While many were released from immediate detention, some lost their license to practice, while others found themselves and loved ones subjected to round-the-clock police surveillance and travel bans.

Meanwhile, the wife of fellow detained rights lawyer Yu Wensheng says there has been scant progress on his case.

"The time limit [for pretrial detention] was supposed to be Nov. 3, but now they are telling me to call on Nov. 20 for an update," Yu's wife Xu Yan told RFA. "It is inhumane of them to keep on postponing the case like this, both for Yu Wensheng and for his family."

"They have used these tactics on all of the lawyers held in the July 2015 crackdown," she said. "It's cruel."

Authorities in the eastern Chinese province of Jiangsu indicted Yu Wensheng for subversion in July.

Yu, who is being held incommunicado by authorities in Jiangsu's Xuzhou city, was formally arrested for "incitement to subvert state power"and "obstruction of officials in the course of their duty" in April.

Reported by Gao Feng for RFA's Mandarin Service. Translated and edited by Luisetta Mudie.


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