Bar associations from more than 20 countries have called on the Chinese Communist government to release prominent human-rights lawyer Wang Quanzhang, who has been detained for more than three years without contact with the outside world.
Wang has defended spiritual groups persecuted by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), such as Christians and Falun Gong, and has worked with self-taught paralegals, or “barefoot lawyers,” and human-rights activists to defend the disenfranchised in China.
He was detained in August 2015 amid a nationwide crackdown on rights activists and charged in January 2016 with alleged “subversion of state power.”
“At the time of writing, [Wang] has been held incommunicado for over three years without any form of due process, and risks further deterioration of his health condition while in detention,” said the petition letter to Chinese leader Xi Jinping, issued on the 70th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, at the initiative of the Geneva Bar Association.
“We are profoundly concerned about lawyer Wang, and all the other lawyers who face continuous harassment simply for the exercise of their mandate as legal professional and defenders of the basic rights of citizens,” it said.
The CCP launched a wave of raids on lawyers, legal assistants, and human-rights activists in what is known as the “709” crackdown—a reference to July 9, 2015, when the detentions started. Of the 321 lawyers and activists arrested during the crackdown, Wang is the only one who hasn’t been tried or released, the letter said.
“We understand that no evidence of any form or shape has substantiated the charges against him,” it said.
The letter also said that Wang hasn’t been allowed independent legal representation, and has been denied access to his family lawyer, who has allegedly been intimidated into withdrawing from the case.
Wang’s wife, Li Wenzu, has filed 30 lawsuits demanding a trial for her husband, in accordance with Chinese law, the letter said; Li and her son have suffered intimidation, harassment, and have been denied the right to visit Wang.
Harassed for Seeking Husband’s Release
Li told VisionTimes in September that she has been arrested, monitored by police, and put under house arrest for appealing her husband’s detention.
Earlier this year, Li set off on a march of more than 60 miles from Beijing to Tianjin city, where she believes her husband is being held.
According to Li, she was arrested in June for protesting in front of the detention center in Tianjin city. She carried red buckets labeled with words of support, such as “love you” and “waiting for you.”
“The police came up and pointed at me and said: ‘Come to the police station with me!'” she told the outlet.
“[I asked] why? He said that I was suspected of disturbing the public order. I asked how I disturbed it. He said that I had a red bucket! I took a red bucket and disturbed the social order!”
Li also said her 5-year-old son was banned from attending kindergarten in Beijing.
A Persistent Lawyer
Li said Wang was a fearless lawyer who chose to represent Falun Gong practitioners because most other attorneys wouldn’t take the case.
“[He told me] if he was afraid and didn’t take these cases, then no one would do it. These people need help. What are they going to do?” she said.
Wang’s unrelenting defense of Falun Gong practitioners led him to be beaten by court officers on multiple occasions, Li said.
“A lawyer told me that he seems to be the one being roughed up most often,” she said. “Usually, it’s because he was particularly persistent and angered the bailiffs. He wouldn’t back off even if they beat or threatened him.”
In one case, in which Wang defended a Falun Gong practitioner, she said a lawyer told her that the court officer slapped his face for every sentence he spoke.
“I was told that he had been slapped more than 100 times,” Li said.
In June 2015, Wang detailed on ChinaChange.org how he was beaten by court officers for 10 minutes after his tenacious defense of several Falun Gong practitioners in Shandong province.
“A dozen or so bailiffs rushed into the courtroom. Some gripped me by the arm, one clenched me by the throat, and they hauled me out,” he wrote. “At this point, someone had started fiercely punching me in the head; others were hurling abuse… I was dragged into a room on the first floor of the courthouse and was ordered by one of the police to kneel. I refused. They started beating me again.”
Reuters contributed to this article.