03/25/2024, 18.01
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Liaoning: Li Yuhan, the ‘big sister' of human rights lawyers, is free again

She was arrested for defending Wang Yu, a younger colleague who was one of the main victims of the 9 July 2015 crackdown, one of the harshest on activists in China. Despite her age, she served her full sentence, six years and six months, for “picking quarrels and provoking trouble”.

Beijing (AsiaNews/Agencies) – Li Yuhan, 67, a Beijing-based lawyer who has defended victims of human rights violations in China, was released free after serving six years and six months, her family announced yesterday.

Her colleagues refer to her as "big sister” due to her age and compassionate attitude. After qualifying in law in 1990, she began practising the following year in Liaoning province, where she was already the target of the authorities.

In 2006 she was forced to move from Shenyang to Beijing because of local police harassment after she filed several complaints. In the capital, she began practicing at the Dunxin law firm.

Li Yuhan dealt with sensitive cases centred on religious freedom and access to government information.

In particular, she played a crucial role in defending the 709 group, more than 200 lawyers and human rights activists arrested and jailed during a crackdown that began on 9 July 2015.

In particular, she defended Wang Yu, a younger colleague who provided legal counsel, among others, to Uyghur intellectual Ilham Toti, one of the main victims of the wave of repression.

Wang Yu was eventually released on bail, a few weeks later, on 9 October 2017, Li Yuhan herself was taken away by police in Shenyang, where she had returned to follow up on a client's case.

Accused of "picking quarrels and provoking trouble” (later upgraded to "subverting state power"), she was convicted and sentenced to six years and six months in prison, which she served in full.

From prison, she managed to get out news of torture and other abuses she suffered, including food deprivation and the denial of medical drugs, despite her age and health problems.

Still, "her current mental state is still good," said relatives who met her when she left prison, grateful to those who offered her "attention, support, and help" over the years.

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