Sunday, May 21, 2017
Wang Quanzhang: The lawyer who 'simply vanished' By John Sudworth
In August 2015 Wang Quanzhang was detained by the Chinese authorities. In that he was not alone. The nationwide series of raids that summer saw more than 200 lawyers, legal assistants and human rights activists brought in for questioning. But almost two years on, Mr Wang is the only lawyer from whom nothing has been heard at all. "I don't know whether he's alive or dead," his wife Li Wenzu told me. "I have had no information at all. He has simply disappeared from the face of the earth. It is so scary, so brutal."
Li Wenzu fears her husband is being punished for a failure to compromise
China's "709" crackdown as it's now known - a reference to 9 July, the date it began - is widely seen as a sign of a growing intolerance of dissent under President Xi Jinping. Of the large number of people initially detained, around two dozen have been pursued as formal investigations. Over the past year or so those cases have gradually been reaching some kind of a conclusion. Some of the accused have been given long jail terms, of up to seven and a half years, for the crime of subversion. Others have been given suspended prison sentences or released on bail, but still remain under constant surveillance. But of the lawyers arrested in that initial 2015 sweep, Mr Wang is unique. Apart from one brief written notification of his arrest, the family say he has disappeared into a black hole. "For these two years, he hasn't been allowed to meet the lawyer that we have employed for him, and he has no right to communicate with the outside world," his wife Ms Li said. "He has been deprived of all rights."
There have been allegations that some of the lawyers have been tortured during their detention, force-fed drugs, shackled, beaten and kept in stress positions for long periods of time. Their admissions of guilt, either in court or in the televised confessions that have been broadcast by state-run TV, should not be taken at face value, their supporters argue, but rather as the inevitable consequence of the pressure they've been under. They now fear that Mr Wang's continued incarceration might be because he is holding out. "I think it might be because my husband hasn't compromised at all," Ms Li said. "That's why his case remains unsolved." Wang Quanzhang is certainly no stranger to pressure. His work representing the persecuted followers of China's banned spiritual movement, Falun Gong, as well as human rights activists, has attracted the ire of the authorities before. In this interview, he recounts being beaten in the basement of a court building for challenging the order of a judge…