Prominent Chinese human rights lawyer Wang Quanzhang is one of 10 nominees for the Dutch government’s Human Rights Tulip award this year.
Wang has defended spiritual groups persecuted by the Chinese Communist Party, such as Christians and Falun Gong practitioners, and has worked with self-taught paralegals, or “barefoot lawyers,” and human rights activists to defend the disenfranchised in China.
The annual Tulip Award is given to individuals or organizations around the world that promote human rights in an innovative way.
“Wang Quanzhang has pioneered the use of social media in his approach to human rights defense using public advocacy in tandem with legal representation,” his profile page on the Tulip award website says. “He promotes the idea that in China reliance on the law itself is insufficient to protect basic human rights.”
Wang was arrested in a nationwide crackdown on human rights lawyers and activists in China two years ago, and hasn’t been heard from or seen since.
His family says he was detained on charges of being a “threat to national security” for his legal work to defend persecuted groups in China.
The crackdown has come to be known as the 709 Crackdown, and some groups estimate the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) rounded up some 300 human rights lawyers and activists in it.
“Wang Quanzhang deserves this award,” Beijing rights lawyer Yu Wensheng told NTD TV’s Chinese edition. “[His winning] would be an encouragement to human rights lawyers in China.”
Hunan Province rights lawyer Wen Donghai said Wang’s detention is an example of how corrupt the legal system in China is, and that how he is being treated makes the rule of law look like a farce in China.
“Even if he is guilty, he should not be detained for so long and should not be forbidden to meet with his lawyer,” Wen told NTD TV. “This is abnormal. It is totally ignoring criminal lawsuit procedure.”
The Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs and NGO group Justice and Peace selected 10 candidates based on nominations from the public. The public now chooses three of the candidates through online voting. Of those three, the Dutch minister of foreign affairs will choose the winner.
Voting, which is open to anyone regardless of their nationality, opened on Aug. 28 and will close on Sept. 6.
The award will be presented on Dec. 10, Human Rights Day.
Most of those detained during the 709 Crackdown have been sentenced or released. Only two, Wang and activist Wu Gan, have yet to be tried.
According to Amnesty International, the ones who have been released still face close monitoring and separation from loved ones. Lawyers who have tried to represent them in court face threats and harassment, the human rights organization says.
Wang’s wife, Li Wenzu, and the family of other persecuted human rights lawyers and activists released a joint statement on Aug.19 calling for justice for those imprisoned in the crackdown, and demanded the release of the detained ones.
NTD China News reporter Li Yun contributed to this report.