Ahead of Human Rights Day, Chinese Authorities Harass Rights Lawyers, Detain Them at Home

December 9, 2020 Updated: December 9, 2020

Ahead of International Human Rights Day, authorities across China prevented rights lawyers and their family members from leaving their homes, in an effort to deter them from participating in human rights-related activities.

Dec. 10 is International Human Rights Day.

House Arrests

Lawyer Jiang Tianyong has been placed under house arrest at his parents’ home in Xinyang city, in central China’s Henan Province, since Feb. 28, 2019, after serving a two-year-prison sentence.

Jiang was convicted of “inciting subversion of state power”—a catch-all charge the Chinese regime often uses against dissidents—in 2017.

On Dec. 9, Jiang’s wife Jin Bianling posted on Twitter: “Today is the 650th day that human rights lawyer Jiang Tianyong has been illegally house-arrested by the CCP.”

Epoch Times Photo
Beijing human rights lawyer Jiang Tianyong. (The Epoch Times)

Meanwhile, lawyer Wang Quanzhang’s wife, Li Wenzu, posted a video on Twitter along with a message explaining how police arrived at her family’s doorsteps. Wang was reunited with his family after completing a 4.5-year prison sentence in April.

“At 6 a.m., our doorbell rang. I opened the door and found this group of people blocking the doorway, saying that we couldn’t leave our home,” Li wrote.

Li later tweeted that plainclothes police outside her house didn’t allow her father, who lives together with them, to go to the hospital for a regular appointment for his heart disease.

Epoch Times Photo
Wang Quanzhang with his wife, Li Wenzu, and their son. Wang Quanzhang, a human rights lawyer, has been detained in China without trial since August 2015. (Courtesy of Li Wenzu)

Wang Qiaoling, wife of lawyer Li Heping (no relation to the above couple), posted on Twitter on Wednesday that her husband went out on the rooftop to shout at the plainclothes police stationed outside their home. The police refused to allow their daughter to go to school.

Lawyer Yu Wensheng’s wife Xu Yan posted on Twitter that she was also stuck at home, after two plainclothes officers arrived and refused to leave. Yu was sentenced to prison earlier this year.

Xu said she believed the police presence was to ensure that she would not attend any human rights activities organized by the U.S. embassy or European countries’ embassies.

Epoch Times Photo
Chinese lawyer Yu Wensheng in Beijing on January 12, 2017. (Fred Dufour/AFP/Getty Images)

Concern for Gao Zhisheng

Also on Wednesday, the Falun Gong Human Rights Lawyers Group sent out greetings to Gao Zhisheng, Jiang Tianyong, Wang Quanzhang, and all other Chinese human rights lawyers who have defended Falun Gong practitioners in China.

The Falun Gong spiritual practice has been severely persecuted since 1999, with millions arrested for their faith.

The group, which advocates for the legal rights of practitioners who face charges, asked for the information about lawyer Gao Zhisheng, who has gone missing for over 1,200 days since August 2017.

Gao, a self-taught lawyer and devoted Christian, has defended different vulnerable groups who have persecuted by Chinese authorities.

In 2004 and 2005, Gao published three open letters addressed to China’s rubber-stamp legislature—the National People’s Congress—and then-Chinese leader Hu Jintao and premier Wen Jiabao, appealing to the regime to stop persecuting adherents of Falun Gong.

Because of his work, authorities closed Gao’s law firm in Beijing in 2005, stripped Gao’s lawyer license in 2006, and persecuted Gao and his family by monitoring, harassing, and detaining them.

Epoch Times Photo
Human rights attorney Gao Zhisheng. (The Epoch Times)

Gao has been in and out of prison in the past decade, where he is often tortured. In August 2017, Gao disappeared again. Rights activists believe that he is being held by authorities.

Gao has been nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize three times, and has received at least eight human rights awards.

Theresa Chu, lawyer and spokesperson for the Falun Gong Human Rights Lawyers Group, expressed the group’s appreciation to Gao and other human rights lawyers.

“During the darkest moments for China’s rule of law, you [lawyers] have spent your spirit, health, and energy to defend kind-hearted [Falun Gong] cultivators, and helped China to move toward a moral future. We believe that your spirit will remain in the history of human rights in China forever,” Chu said in an interview with The Epoch Times.

teresa chu
Taiwan human rights lawyer Theresa Chu at a panel event at the Legislative Yuan in Taipei, Taiwan, on Dec. 8, 2017. (Chen Po-chou/The Epoch Times)

US Embassy Message

On Wednesday, the U.S. Embassy in China posted on its official Weibo account—a popular Chinese social media platform—that it would host a discussion panel on Facebook, discussing the importance of free speech, at 8 p.m. on Dec. 10, Beijing time.

The U.S. embassy enjoys relatively more freedom of speech than the average Chinese citizen. The regime does not allow protests or public displays of dissent.

Facebook is also censored in mainland China. It remains to be seen how many Chinese can attend the discussion panel.