01/28/2019, 09.03
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Wang Quanzhang, human rights lawyer, sentenced to 4 and a half years in prison

by Wang Zhicheng

He is the last of the "709" group - arrested in 2015 - to be condemned. The sentence is "subversion against the state". His wife Li Wenzu not allowed to attend the trial. Xi Jinping's promise of a "rule of law" failed.

Tianjin (AsiaNews) - Wang Quanzhang, 42-year-old human rights lawyer, was sentenced this morning to 4 and a half years in prison for subversion against the state. The Tianjin Intermediary Court also ruled that Wang be deprived of political rights for five years. Journalists, diplomats and family members of the accused could not participate in the trial, which took place behind closed doors last December 26.

Wang Quanzhang is the last of the human rights lawyers to be tried after a series of arrests began on July 9, 2015. The operation has been dubbed "709" and had led to the arrest of at least 300 lawyers. Many of them were tried, sentenced; several have "confessed in video"; others have emerged from the prison broken by the physical and psychological torture they suffered.

Human rights lawyers are a group of personalities of the legal world – which include many Protestant and Catholic Christians – who by exploiting the bottlenecks in Chinese law, have tried to guarantee justice to peasants whose lands have been expropriated of their land, underground Christian communities, members of the Falun Gong spiritual movement, dissidents such as Ai Weiwei, Gao Zhisheng, Chen Guangcheng and Uighur academician Ilham Tohti.

To curb pressures on the courts and the Party, in November 2016, the Ministry of Justice introduced new rules for lawyers and law firms, which prohibit actions that can "create discontent with the Party", running counter to the president Xi Jinping’s promise to implement a "rule of law" in China.

Wang's wife, Li Wenzu, has always supported her husband, organizing marches, petitions, demonstrations along with the wives of other lawyers, and asking the authorities to reveal the place of detention, to grant him medical care and a real trial. For this he suffered death threats and house arrest.

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