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Rights lawyer Xie Yanyi. His wife said she was unable to contact him after he was detained and only told him about the birth of their third child on Thursday. Photo: Handout

UpdateChinese rights lawyer released on bail more than a year after crackdown

Xie Yanyi charged with subversion after hundreds of activists were detained in China in July 2015

One of China’s most prominent human rights lawyers was released on bail on Thursday after his arrest over 18 months ago in a huge crackdown on rights activists.

Xie Yanyi was among hundreds of people detained in the so called “709” crackdown, referring to the date in July 2015 when the arrests began.

Xie was charged with subverting state power in January last year and was detained in the northern city of Tianjin.

Xie’s wife, Yuan Shanshan, told the South China Morning Post that her husband had called her at about 5pm on Thursday to say he was out of jail, but still under surveillance at a hotel in Tianjin. He added that he was making efforts to return home soon.

The details of his bail and conditions for release are not clear.

The phone call lasted for about three minutes, Yuan said, and it was the first time she has heard from her husband since his arrest.
Yuan Shanshan, the wife of lawyer Xie Yanyi. Photo: Handout

Yuan discovered she was pregnant with her third child after her husband was taken away and it was only yesterday that she was able to tell him about the birth of their baby daughter.

Yuan was forced out of her home with the baby after her husband’s arrest because the landlord of their former flat refused to let them stay under pressure from the authorities, she said.

Yuan is among the wives of lawyers held in the crackdown who have campaigned relentlessly for the release of their husbands.

Several rights activists have been jailed since the launch of the “709” crackdown.

They include Zhou Shifeng, one of the most influential human rights lawyers in China.

He was given a seven-year jail term for subversion in August last year.

Three others, including an underground Christian pastor Hu Shigen and two rights activists, Zhai Yanmin and Gou Hongguo, were also convicted of subversion after a series of trials in Tianjin held in the same week in August.

Claimed to be open trials by the government, family members of the accused were not allowed to attend court.

Wives of the 709 lawyers including Yuan went to the Tianjin court to protest and were violently dispersed by the police.

Wang Yu, a woman human rights lawyer, was released on bail last August after her apparent confession was broadcast on state TV, in which she blamed “foreign forces” for using her law firm to undermine and discredit China’s government. Her colleagues later suggested the confession was made under duress.

This article appeared in the South China Morning Post print edition as: Lawyer freed from jail 18 months after crackdown