The closed trial of detained human rights lawyer Wang Quanzhang began Wednesday in Tianjin amid protests.
Wang and approximately 300 other lawyers and legal activists were arrested during the 709 Crackdown on July 9, 2015. Though most of the detainees were eventually released, Wang has not been seen in three years, despite international pressure to release him and other detained human rights activists.
Amnesty International called the trial a “sham” and a “cruel charade.” Wang’s charges include “seriously harm[ing] the country’s security and social stability” and “maliciously inciting” opposition to the Chinese government and could carry a penalty of life imprisonment. The trial ended on Wednesday with no verdict announced.
Wang’s wife Li Wenzu has faced surveillance and harassment from Chinese authorities and was barred from attending her husband’s trial along with representatives from the U.S., U.K., Germany, and Switzerland who tried to gain entry.
The US and Germany embassies earlier released a statement [text] urging China to release human rights activist Wu Gan, known as the “Super Vulgar Butcher,” who was sentenced to imprisonment for eight years for undermining governmental authority.
According to the statement, the countries are both “deeply disappointed” by the imprisonment of Wu Gan [official profile], as well as human rights attorney Xie Yang [JURIST report], who was released in May. Both were convicted on subversion charges; however, upon Yang’s release, the countries are calling for China to allow him to continue practicing his profession.
The statement also documents Gan’s and Yang’s mistreatment in China’s justice system, stating that Gan was held in pretrial detention for over two years and denied independent legal counsel until December 2016. According to the statement, Yang was separated from public contact for six months before being charged and then imprisoned for eighteen months before his appearance at an unannounced trial, in which he read from a contradictory scripted statement [materials, in Chinese] and was appointed counsel while his self-obtained attorney was barred from assisting him.
In July 2015, China initiated a round-up of hundreds of activists and lawyers in the so-called “7-09 Crackdown”. In February the Chinese Human Rights Defenders [advocate website], an organization that has closely followed the events of the crackdown, released an annual report highlighting intensified crackdowns on human rights defenders. Many others have been imprisoned under the crackdown [JURIST database].
The embassies also urge for the immediate release of Wang Quanzhang who has been detained and denied independent legal counsel for over two years, similar to other cases of human rights activists and lawyers.
The embassies call “on the Chinese authorities to adhere to procedures established by law and respect China’s international human rights obligations and commitments” by releasing activists imprisoned. They also “urge Chinese authorities to view lawyers and rights defenders as partners in strengthening Chinese society through development of the rule of law.”
Image: Wang Quanzhang with his wife Li Wenzu and their son in 2015