04/06/2020, 14.25
CHINA
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Wang Quanzhang released, only to be 'quarantined' for the coronavirus

The well-known human rights lawyer served a sentence of over four years. His wife Li Wenzu fears that the new restrictive measure will be used as an excuse to keep him in custody for a long time. Wang helped political dissidents, underground Christian communities, members of Falun Gong and expropriated peasants. European Union asks for checks on whether he was subjected to torture in prison.

Beijing (AsiaNews / Agencies) - Released from prison and immediately quarantined for coronavirus. Wang Quanzhang, a well-known Chinese human rights lawyer, ended his prison sentence yesterday, after more than 4 years for "subversion against the state".

Wang was unable to embrace his loved ones in Beijing, after leaving the Linyi (Shandong) penitentiary, he was escorted to Jinan, in the same province, and placed in quarantine.

The new restrictive measure is expected to last 14 days, but his wife Li Wenzu fears that it will be used as an excuse to keep him in custody or under surveillance for a long time.

The chances of contact with him are minimal, and his real conditions are unknown. Humanitarian organizations such as Amnesty International note that the Chinese government controls and monitors activists even after their release. Another human rights lawyer, Jiang Tianyong, is still subject to a surveillance regime despite having finished serving a two-year sentence in February last year.

According to observers, authorities are using the fight against coronavirus to crack down on internal dissent. For example, Xu Zhiyong, founder of the New Citizens Movement, was arrested on February 15 in Guangzhou (Guangdong) during a "health check" to prevent the spread of Covid-19.

Wang had been arrested in 2015 in a security operation called "709" (since it began on July 9 of that year), during which 300 other colleagues were also targeted - including some Protestant and Catholic Christians. Many of them were tried and then sentenced; several have "confessed" their faults on video; others came out of prison very physically and psychologically, because of the torture they suffered.

Wang had defended political activists (including members of the New Citizens Movement), underground Christian communities, faithful of Falun Gong (an outlawed spiritual movement in China) and small farmers who were victims of illegal expropriations. For more than three years his family has had no news of him, and no lawyer were allowed to assist him.

Then, in early 2019, Wang was sentenced by the Tianjin Intermediate Court. Family members were unable to attend the trial; foreign journalists and diplomats were also prevented from entering the courtroom.

Li fought a long and hard battle to free her husband. She shaved her head, organized marches, protests and demonstrations to protest the conviction. Because of this, she suffered death threats and house arrest. Many activists suspect that Wang suffered torture and mistreatment during his captivity. The European Union is calling for an investigation into the treatment received by the activist in prison.

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