The trial of Chinese human rights lawyer Wang Quanzhang is a cruel charade and he should be immediately and unconditionally released, Amnesty International said.
Wang is one of the few lawyers still held in detention after the Chinese government’s mass crackdown in 2015, which targeted nearly 250 lawyers and activists. He is on trial at the Tianjin Municipal No.2 Intermediate People’s Court accused of “subverting state power,” which carries a maximum sentence of life imprisonment.
“This is a sham trial in which Wang Quanzhang is being persecuted only for peacefully defending human rights,” said Doriane Lau, China researcher at Amnesty International.
“Wang Quanzhang has already been unjustly held for more than three years, during which his family suffered the anguish of not knowing whether he was alive until recently. He must be immediately and unconditionally released.”
Wang was taken away by police on 3 August 2015. It was only in July 2018 that his family learnt from a trusted lawyer that Wang Quanzhang was alive and being held in Tianjin.
A lawyer finally met Wang Quanzhang in the detention centre on 12 July 2018. The lawyer said Wang Quanzhang seemed very scared when they met. There are serious concerns he has been tortured and otherwise ill-treated in detention.
“Wang Quanzhang disappeared into a black hole for three years, during which only the Chinese authorities knew his fate. Without legal safeguards, including regular access to his lawyer and his family, he remains at grave risk of being tortured and otherwise ill-treated,” said Doriane Lau.
Other human rights lawyers who were detained in the 2015 crackdown and later released have reported been beaten, made to stand for up to 15 consecutive hours and force-fed medication.
Before his detention, Wang Quanzhang worked on issues considered sensitive by the Chinese government, such as defending religious freedom and members of the New Citizens’ Movement, a network of grassroots activists who promote government transparency and expose corruption.
Due to his role in representing such cases, Wang faced frequent incidents of intimidation prior to his detention.
Li Wenzu, Wang’s wife, has campaigned tirelessly to bring her husband home safely. She has faced constant harassment and surveillance since Wang Quanzhang was detained.