Angela Merkel met with prisoners’ wives in Beijing

The German chancellor met with Li Wenzu, wife of Wang Quanzhang, and with Xu Yan, wife of Yu Wensheng, during her two-day visit to China. During her meeting with Prime Minister Li Keqiang, she also spoke about Liu Xia, the widow of Liu Xiaobo, who has been invited to Germany for treatment.

Beijing (AsiaNews/Agencies) – German Chancellor Angela Merkel met the wives of two detained Chinese human rights lawyers, the women said on Monday showing the pictures taken at the time.

Such meetings are rare in China. Heads of state or government who visit the country often avoid making major public statements about human rights or holding meetings with activists or relatives. Merkel was in Beijing on 24 and 25 May.

Merkel did not mention the meeting with the two women during her two-day stay but said she raised the issue of human rights during her talks with Prime Minister Li Keqiang.

On 24 May, the German leader met with Li Wenzu, wife of Wang Quanzhang. Last month, Li attempted to march 100 kilometres to a detention facility to highlight her husband’s plight before she was thwarted by police and forced to go home. Her husband is in prison charged with “subversion of state power”.

“I thanked Merkel for her attention and support to 709 lawyers,” Li said referring to a group of lawyers rounded up in a crackdown on 9 July 2015.

709 refers to a group of more than 200 lawyers who were taken into custody, interrogated, formally charged and sentenced on 9 July 2015.

Several of them were released after making widely publicised video confessions. Wang is the only one who has not yet been tried and still remains in prison in an unknown place (thought to be in Tianjin). Li Wenzu asked Merkel to find out if her husband was still alive.

Merkel also met Xu Yan (pictured). Her husband Yu Wensheng was also accused of "inciting subversion of state power".

Activists and human rights advocates were hoping that the German chancellor would also meet Liu Xia, the wife of the late Nobel laureate and great dissident Liu Xiaobo, but she is still under house arrest and in isolation.

Liu Xia, who suffers from deep depression, has asked many times that she be allowed to leave China for proper treatment, but the authorities have been very reluctant to let her go.

During the meeting with Li Keqiang, Merkel spoke about Liu Xia’s situation, who has been invited many times to Germany.