China jails human rights lawyer Wang Quanzhang
Lawyer held incommunicado since crackdown in mid 2015 sentenced to 4½ years
Human rights lawyer Wang Guangwei pictured with his son Wang Guangwei in China’s southern Hainan province in May 2015. Photograph: Handout courtesy of Li Wenzu/AFP/Getty Images
Li Wenzu, the wife of imprisoned lawyer Wang Quanzhang, talks with their son Wang Guangwei at their home in Beijing on Monday. Photograph: Greg Baker/AFP/Getty Images
A Chinese court on Monday jailed prominent rights lawyer Wang Quanzhang for 4½ years for subversion of state power, a sentence denounced by Human Rights Watch as a “mockery” of Beijing’s claims to champion the rule of law.
Mr Wang, who had taken cases deemed sensitive by authorities, such as accusations of police torture or defending members of the banned Falun Gong spiritual movement, went missing in August 2015 amid a crackdown on rights activists and lawyers.
In a short statement on its website, the Tianjin Number 2 Intermediate People’s Court in the northern port city of Tianjin said that Mr Wang had been found guilty.
It is not possible to contact Mr Wang for comment.
After Mr Wang’s hearing on December 26th, the United Nations called on authorities to “ensure his due process rights are respected” and said there were “serious human rights concerns” about the way his case had been handled.
The verdict makes a “mockery” of President Xi Jinping’s claims to champion the rule of law, Wang Yaqiu, a Hong Kong-based researcher for Human Rights Watch, said in a statement.
China’s criminal law requires that time spent in detention prior to sentencing be deducted, suggesting Mr Wang could be released earlier than his 4½ year jail term, she said.
The justice ministry did not respond to a faxed request for comment on the case.
It is not known if Mr Wang defended himself during the trial or whether he will appeal the sentence.
Ms Li said in a statement on Twitter that her husband was innocent and the “inhuman” behaviour of law enforcement officials toward Mr Wang was a violation of Chinese law.
“I respect and support every choice that Wang Quanzhang has made. I will continue to defend Wang Quanzhang’s rights,” she said.
Ms Li has championed her husband’s case since he went missing, staging a 100 km march from Beijing to Tianjin, shaving her head to protest his treatment and filing almost weekly petitions to the supreme people’s court.
Mr Wang’s case has been shrouded in secrecy and uncertainty, as authorities have released little information about his well-being and have denied access to Ms Li and the seven lawyers she has appointed to defend him.
One of the lawyers, Yu Wensheng, had been Mr Wang’s defence attorney, before he was stripped of his license and then arrested in January. He is now being investigated for “inciting subversion”.
Police turned Western diplomats and foreign journalists away from the courthouse on the day of Mr Wang’s hearing and detained activist Yang Chunlin, who went to Tianjin to support him.
An indictment document from 2017 said that Mr Wang had “for a long time been influenced by infiltrating anti-China forces” and had been trained by overseas groups and accepted their funding.
China routinely rejects foreign criticism of its human rights record, saying all Chinese are treated equally in accordance with the law and that foreign countries have no right to interfere. – Reuters