Rights lawyer Wang jailed in final act of '709' crackdown

Top News | AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE 29 Jan 2019

Prominent human rights lawyer Wang Quanzhang has been sentenced to more than four years in prison for subversion.

Wang, 42, who defended political activists and victims of land seizures, disappeared in a 2015 sweep aimed at courtroom critics of communist authorities.

Charged with subversion in January 2016, Wang was the last of more than 200 Chinese lawyers and activists arrested in the crackdown - dubbed "709" because arrests started on July 9, 2015 - to be tried or released.

Wang was found guilty yesterday in the Tianjin Second Intermediate People's Court of subverting state power and imprisoned for four years and six months and deprived of political rights for five years.

According to Doriane Lau, a China researcher at Amnesty International, Wang's prison term includes the more than three years he was in detention, so "he should be released in a little over a year."

After more than two years in legal limbo - detained without a trial date - Wang's hearing was behind closed doors in Tianjin on December 26. The court said the trial was closed to the public "due to the state secrets involved."

Wang's wife, Li Wenzu, was placed under de facto house arrest the day before the trial to prevent her from attending.

Last April she attempted to march 100 kilometers to the detention facility in Tianjin where her husband was held.

And in December, before Wang's court date was announced, Li and three supporters shaved their heads and tried to submit a petition to a Beijing court protesting Wang's detention.

Rights organizations denounced Wang's sentence, with Amnesty International calling it "a gross injustice."

Wang was part of a now defunct law firm called Beijing Fengrui, which specialized in cases involving farmers' land rights and labor camps.

But the firm had also frequently defended victims of sexual abuse, dissident scholars and members of banned religious groups.

Wang, for instance, worked on several cases defending Falun Gong practitioners.

The law firm was at the center of the 709 crackdown, with at least five lawyers detained. And state media called Beijing Fengrui a "major criminal gang."

Other attorneys at the firm have been unemployed since the crackdown.

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