Human rights in China

Chinese rights advocates Wang Yu, Bao Longjun formally arrested on subversion charges

Arrests come six months to the day they were first taken away and held in isolation without access to lawyers

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 13 January, 2016, 8:20pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 04 August, 2016, 10:43am

Prominent mainland rights lawyer Wang Yu and her husband Bao Longjun have been formally arrested on subversion charges, after being detained in isolation for six months, their lawyer said on Wednesday.

The news came after the confirmation this week of the formal arrests of another six rights advocates on related charges. All eight advocates were detained in a sweeping crackdown on rights lawyers that started in July.

Critics said the unprecedented crackdown was aimed at silencing advocates and activists and stifling the burgeoning rights defence movement.

Lawyer Li Yuhan said on Wednesday that Wang was charged with “subverting state power” and held in the Tianjin No 1 police detention centre. Bao was charged with “inciting subversion of state power” and detained in Tianjin’s No 2 detention centre. Li said the arrest notifications were both dated Friday – exactly six months after they were first taken away.

READ MORE: Detained human rights lawyer, Wang Yu, on Chinese state TV informed of ‘failed attempt to smuggle son overseas’

She said Wang and Bao, who have been placed in “residential surveillance” – a form of isolated, solitary detention outside the jail that can last up to six months – had been denied visits from lawyers and deprived of the rights to communicate with the outside world and be informed about their cases.

After they were detained in July, state media said rights lawyers from the Beijing-based Fengrui Law Firm, where Wang worked, were a “criminal gang” that “drew attention to sensitive cases” and “seriously disturbed social order”. State media reports also accused them of “creating chaos” in courts and mobilising activists to protest outside courts “to reach their goals with ulterior motives”.

Li said she did not believe her clients’ actions amounted to subversion.

The Chinese Human Rights Lawyers Concern Group said Fengrui director Zhou Shifeng and lawyers Wang Quanzhang and Li Shuyun, who had been similarly detained since July, were also formally arrested on the charge of “subverting state power” on Friday.

READ MORE: Published ‘confessions’ stoke fair trial fears for lawyers held in Chinese crackdown

Zhao Wei, an assistant to Li Heping, another rights lawyer not associated with Fengrui, was also formally arrested on the same charge while her colleague, Gao Yue, was arrested for “assisting in destroying evidence”, the group said. Another two lawyers caught up in the crackdown, Xie Yanyi and Xie Yang, were formally arrested for “inciting subversion of state power” but lawyer Sui Muqing had been released on bail, other lawyers said.

Fellow lawyer Tang Jitian said the authorities wanted to smear the lawyers’ names, strip them of their freedom and warn others against defending rights. He said that if the lawyers were convicted, they would be barred from practising law again.

Wang and her husband Bao, who had been held in isolation since July, were shown on state television in October in a distressed state, condemning a failed attempt by activists to help their teenage son flee abroad. After the plan failed, the boy was taken back to China and is reportedly living under 24-hour surveillance.