Chinese human rights lawyer regains freedom after five years

by Rushda Fathima Khan

Source: Reuters

As China keeps a widely-documented record of violation of human rights, it is therefore an aberration for the United Nations to have included it among nations who elevate human rights.

Chinese human rights lawyer, Wang Quanzhang, 44, has been released from prison after almost five years.

Wang was arrested in 2015 in a crackdown on more than 200 lawyers and government critics in China as President Xi Jinping extended his grip on power.

He has yet to return home to his family in the Chinese capital. He was instead escorted to a property he owns in eastern Shandong province for 14 days in quarantine as a precaution against the coronavirus, according to his wife Li Wenzu.

Li disclosed this in Beijing, where she lives with their young son.

She feared Wang would be placed under house arrest despite his release from prison, and would be subject to surveillance.

“They used the pretext of the epidemic as an excuse to quarantine him for 14 days when he should have been able to return to his home in Beijing according to the relevant legal guidelines,” she stated.

Wang’s initial detention in 2015 came as part of the so-called “709” crackdown, nicknamed as such because it began on July 9 that year.

But it was not until January 2019 that he was sentenced to four-and-a-half years in prison for “subverting state power” in a closed-door trial.

A prominent lawyer who has defended political activists and victims of land seizures, Wang was held incommunicado prior to the trial.

The lawyer was repeatedly involved in politically charged cases which centred on religious freedom, press freedom and forced displacement.

“I am really worried they plan on putting him under long-term house arrest and will prevent us from being reunited as a family,” said Li, who had tirelessly campaigned for her husband’s release.

Li’s first trip to see her husband since his arrest in 2015 came in June last year when she was granted a prison visit after repeated denials.

“My husband’s health has deteriorated during the long incarceration, he had lost so much weight,” Li said.

Beijing, for instance, has stepped up its crackdown on civil society since Xi took power in 2012, tightening restrictions on freedom of speech and arresting hundreds of activists and lawyers.

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