Young Chinese legal activist ‘regrets’ civil rights activism

Husband disputes statements posted on his wife’s microblog accounts

PUBLISHED : Monday, 11 July, 2016, 7:13pm
UPDATED : Monday, 11 July, 2016, 11:31pm

A young legal assistant detained for a year in a sweeping crackdown on lawyers and activists said on Sunday that she regretted her civil rights activism.

But her husband said he suspected his wife was forced to recant.

Zhao Wei, 24, who was an assistant to high-profile rights lawyer Li Heping, was released on bail from the Tianjin No 1 Detention Centre on Thursday and is thought to be the youngest of the hundreds of people detained in the July crackdown.

After her high-profile release, several posts appeared on her microblog accounts saying she regretted her actions and accusing her former employer of receiving funds from “overseas”. The posts also rejected allegations that she was sexually abused in detention.

Her dramatic change in attitude surprised many, with some questioning whether she authored the posts.

Speaking to the South China Morning Post on the phone on Sunday, Zhao said she wrote the statements on her accounts.

“I have come to realise that I have taken the wrong path. I repent for what I did. I’m now a brand new person,” she said.

Young Chinese legal assistant held in huge crackdown on rights activists released on bail

She said she wanted to speak to the media because she “realised she had made mistakes” and she “truly wanted to repent”.

She said she was back at her home in Henan province and was staying with her parents.

The Post could not verify Zhao’s location or whether she was under surveillance during the interview. Zhao declined requests for a face-to-face interview.

Her husband, You Minglei, told the Post on Monday that he suspected his wife was forced to write the posts.

He said he could not contact Zhao and did not think she was truly free.

“I don’t think she is in a state of freedom,” You said. “I want to go to Henan [from Beijing] to find out more in the next day or two.

“I don’t think [she wrote] those messages uploaded to her Weibo account.”

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Zhao said she needed to rest before deciding what to do the next, and she had not decided whether she would continue her involvement in the rights movement.

Yan Huafeng, Zhao’s lawyer, said he was not in contact with Zhao but he believed Zhao’s freedoms were limited.

Another lawyer representing Zhao’s family, Ren Quanniu, was detained for “fabricating news” that Zhao was sexually abused in the detention centre.

As with those of others detained in the crackdown, Zhao’s case was not brought to court.

Zhao said she did not know how long she would remain on bail and she had not been told whether she will be tried at a later date.