China Rights Lawyer Reunited With Family After 5 Years

Story ByLee Bullen,Sub EditorJoseph Golder,AgencyAsia Wire Report

The Chinese human rights lawyer who spent nearly five years in prison for subversion has been reunited with his family after his wife fell ill.

Wang Quanzhang, 44, was released from prison earlier this month after serving four and a half years for state subversion, and he is still prohibited from reuniting with his family in the Chinese capital Beijing.

Wang was one of the hundreds of lawyers to be arrested during the ‘709’ crackdown, a purge of human rights activists by the government five years ago on 9th July which is where the name comes from.

Wang told local media: “I was suddenly isolated from the whole world and I was totally consumed by the pain that I was separated from my wife and son.

“As it went on, I had no choice but to force myself to give up my emotional reliance on them and become indifferent.”

Wang added: “Honestly, I would not be able to stand my ground for so long if I had not become indifferent. So this was why I was very aloof to my family when they visited me at prison.”

Wang’s wife Li Wenzu said that he had become a “completely changed person who was anxious and agitated” after visiting him in June last year for the first time in over four years.

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the human rights lawyer had to spend his first two weeks of freedom in self-isolation at his former home in the city of Jinan in the Chinese province of Shandong with only access to a mobile phone, according to local media.

Reports said that he was banned from travelling to Beijing to be with his wife and seven-year-old son and was also refused an internet connection.

Wang was allowed visitors, but only under close supervision.

However, since his wife fell ill, the authorities have allowed Wang to travel to Beijing to be with his family again.

However, the lawyer is likely to remain under tight surveillance, according to reports.

Police drove Wang to the Chinese capital to be with his ailing wife on 27th April.

He was greeted by his wife Li, who called it a “dream come true”, at the entrance to their home.

According to local media, she had returned from hospital that morning after being treated for acute appendicitis.

Wang told local media: “I haven’t seen my wife and child for five years. It’s been a long time since I cuddled them.”

“In the last five years, I’ve been completely disconnected from the outside world. I feel a little dazed. I will try my best to get back to the world.”

Li said: “Before he returned, I imagined countless times when I would see him. I would hug him first.

“But when I saw him, it was totally different from what I imagined.

“Several people, police and district staff, followed him and tried to get inside my home. I fought with them first to keep them out.”

She added that the pain of the appendicitis was “worth it” for her husband’s return.

Despite his release, the authorities will continue to maintain tight surveillance over the 44-year-old lawyer.

He was among hundreds of human rights activists arrested by the Chinese authorities during the ‘709’ purge.

In custody, the lawyer was reportedly refused to see anyone for three years before being tried behind closed doors at the end of 2018, according to reports.

He has so far declined to say whether he was tortured during his imprisonment, like the other 709 prisoners claimed, because he is reportedly scared of upsetting the authorities.

However, he called his detention “unjust” and claimed it was a “blatant retaliation” for refusing to plead guilty to his charges.

Local media said he was the only activist in the crackdown to not plead guilty or strike an agreement with the authorities.

Wang refused to accept that defending clients on alleged religious and civil rights violations constituted subversion and that he had nothing to be guilty of.

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