Human rights in China

Human rights lawyer swept up in ‘709 crackdown’ to face court in Tianjin for subversion

Chinese prosecutors lay formal charges against rights advocate rounded up in national crackdown

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 16 February, 2017, 9:02am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 01 March, 2017, 6:54pm

A Chinese human rights lawyer swept up in a massive crackdown 19 months ago has been indicted for subversion.

Prosecutors in Tianjin indicted Wang Quanzhang on charges of “inciting subversion of state power” on Tuesday, his wife, Li Wenzu, said on Wednesday.

Wang will be tried in the Tianjin No 2 Intermediate People’s Court, where three other lawyers and an advocate rounded up in the “709 crackdown” were tried in August. They were sentenced to three to seven years in jail on subversion charges.

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The term “709” refers to the start of the crackdown on July 9, 2015. About 300 rights lawyers and ­activists were detained, interrogated or threatened in what some rights groups and observers have called the harshest crackdown on human rights and civil society in decades.

Yesterday was Wang’s 41st birthday and his second in ­custody since the crackdown. His wife and two lawyers have not been allowed to visit or speak to him since.

Li, who married Wang more than five years ago, said she had never doubted her husband’s ­innocence.“[The authorities] have been looking into the case for a year and seven months. If they have enough evidence, why would they put off the charges for so long?” she said.

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She said prosecutors twice handed Wang’s case back to the police for “supplementary investigation”, the maximum number of times allowed by law.

After being taken away by the police on July 10, 2015, Wang was put under “residential surveillance at a designated place” – an official term for secret detention – until he was formally arrested on subversion charges in January 2016.

The China Human Rights Lawyers Concern Group said last month that Wang and another 709 lawyer, Li Heping, had been subjected to various form of ­torture, including electric shocks, while in custody.

Li said she feared for her husband’s well-being, but she did not think the authorities would let her or his lawyers visit him because they would not want him to reveal the extent of his torture.

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Li said she had also been under watch in Beijing. “There are five or six surveillance cameras outside my flat and agents have rented a flat on the second floor of my building to monitor me,” she said.

She said their four-year-old son missed his father over the Lunar New Year. “He told me, ‘I miss Daddy’ every night and asked why his father had not yet come home,” Li said.

“Nobody can predict how the trial will end, but I won’t give up until the last moment and will do everything I can.”

Correction: A previous version of the story said Wang Quanzhang was formally arrested early last month; he was in fact arrested in January 2016.