Lawyers protest against the detention of human rights activist
Outrage followed when prominent defence lawyer Wang Quanzhang was detained in a Jiangsu courtroom on Tuesday. The arrest of the outspoken human rights defender has prompted Beijing lawyers to travel to the court to challenge the decision.
On Tuesday, the Jingjiang City People’s Court placed Wang under judicial detention for ten days, saying he disrupted court order while defending the case of a Falun Gong practitioner.
Beijing-based defence lawyer Wang took on defence of Zhu Yanian along with a colleague last year. Their relationship with the Jingjiang authorities was difficult right from the start. When they were barred from seeing their defendant, they in vain challenged the decision.
At Tuesday’s court hearing, his co-counsel Li Subin, whose law license had been seized, was refused to serve as counsel and had to leave the bench, according to an account given by their law firm Qingshi.
Wang stayed on and started by submitting an application to disqualify a judicial officer because of his long-standing obstruction of visiting rights for Zhu’s defence team. The court rested to deliberate but rejected the motion. When proceedings resumed, Wang made his case for Zhu's innocence, adding that his client had been tortured in pre-trial detention.
When the hearing adjourned in the late afternoon, the judicial officer asked everyone but Wang to leave the courtroom. That was the last time Wang has been seen in public, according to the law firm’s account.
On Thursday, the court issued a statement on its website saying that Wang had been detained because he had “violated the order of the court” and that the circumstances of these violations were “grave.”
In the evening, a group of Beijing lawyers travelled to Jingjiang and, on Friday, submitted a letter or protest to the Jingjiang municipal government calling for Wang’s immediate release.
“If this case is not immediately set right, it will have a very serious impact nationally and internationally," the letter reads. "It will harm the image of the Chinese judiciary, it will undermine or destroy the people’s trust in the nation under the rule of law.”
“We are 35 people here,” Wu Lei, a Beijing-based lawyer, wrote the Post in a text message from Jingjiang . “We gave the letter to the municipal Party committee and pasted it on the court house gate!”
Minutes earlier, Wu had stood outside the court house and read out loud from Rudolf von Jhering’s 1872 classic in legal history, The Struggle for Law.
Detained lawyer Wang Quanzhang has gained national prominence for defending disabled rights advocate Ni Yulan, whistle-blower journalist Qi Chonghuai, and Shenzhen policeman-turned activist Wang Dengchao.
“I call upon your court to reveal the facts on which Wang’s judicial detention is based on,” Liu Xiaoyuan, one of China’s most prominent activist lawyers and co-counsel in the Wang Dengchao case, wrote on Sina Weibo. “If you don’t dare to, don’t want to release the truth, we have every reason to suspect that you are abusing your public powers to crush a lawyer.”