01/16/2018, 13.42
CHINA
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Human rights lawyer Wang Quanzhang held by police for two and a half years

by Wang Zhicheng

He is the only prisoner whose fate remains unknown. The prison in Tianjin won’t let his wife and lawyers see him. In the past, Wang defended Falun Gong members and farmers displaced from their land. Torture and phoney confessions are routine.

Beijing (AsiaNews) – Wang Quanzhang, one of more than 300 human rights lawyers arrested in July 2015, has been in the hands of the police for two and a half years. He is the only 709 lawyer whose fate remains unknown. (709 refers to the date – July 9 – when the anti-lawyers crackdown began.)

Since then, several 709 lawyers – Hu Shigen (胡 石 根), Zhou Shifeng (周世锋), Zhai Yanmin (翟岩民) and Gou Hongguo (勾 洪 国) – have been tried, whilst others – Xie Yang (谢 阳) and Jiang Tianyong (江天勇) – have been forced to make a confession on television.

Many of those arrested – at least 50 per cent – are Christians (Protestants and Catholics) who use whatever room provided by Chinese law to defend groups, priests and pastors from the abuses of local authorities.

Several of them have represented communities in Zhejiang during the campaign by local authorities to tear down crosses.

For his part, Wang Quanzhang has also defended peasants who have had their land seized, and members of the Falun Gong spiritual movement, which the authorities have outlawed.

Wang was among the first to be arrested and held in a secret place, unable to see anyone.

In February 2017, he was officially charged with "subversion of state power" and is expected to go on trial before a court in Tianjin. But so far nothing has been done.

According to China Change, neither his wife nor his two lawyers went to the First Detention Centre in Tianjin last Friday (12 January) to visit him, but were turned away.

The prison has also refused to accept money for "meal charges" on the prisoner’s behalf in order to improve his diet.

Wang’s two lawyers, requesting a meeting with their client, were shown a piece of A4 paper that read “lawyers are not allowed to see Wu Gan and Wang Quanzhang.”

Wu was sentenced to eight and a half years in prison at the end of December. Both prisoners have rejected the accusations levelled at them.

The long period of isolation worries Wang’s family and human rights activists. Several lawyers who were detained and then released have revealed that they were tortured: given electric shocks, placed in cages and submerged in water, forced to take drugs, deprived of sleep, and subjected to physical and verbal abuse.

According to experts, the campaign of arrests and convictions involving the 709 lawyers discredits Chinese President Xi Jinping’s pledge to implement the rule of law in China.

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