Prominent Chinese civil rights lawyer Wang Quanzhang has been sentenced to four and a half years in prison. Tianjin Second Intermediate People’s Court found him guilty of subversion of state power, according to Monday.
The critical advocate for political and civil rights has been in prison for three and a half years. The trial took place at the end of December.
Wang Quanzhang worked for the now-closed law firm Fengrui, which had represented, among others, the famous artist Ai Weiwei. Chancellery founder Zhou Shifeng was also sentenced to seven years in prison for „undermining state power.“ Both lawyers were arrested in the summer of 2015 in the wake of a wave of persecution against some 300 lawyers, law clerks, activists and relatives.
For three years there was not even a death toll from Wang Quanzhang until a lawyer was arrested in July in Tianjin City, an hour’s drive from Beijing. The judgment met with international rejection. „It is outrageous that Wang Quanzhang is being punished for peacefully campaigning for human rights in China,“ said Doriane Lau of Amnesty International.
The judgment is a „gross injustice“. The lawyer must be released immediately and without conditions. „In the three years leading up to his trial, the authorities have made Wang Quanzhang disappear into a black hole where he was probably tortured,“ said the Amnesty employee.
„Wang Quanzhang has not committed any crime, and he should not have been detained,“ said Maya Wang, a researcher from Human Rights Watch in Hong Kong. For years he tirelessly represented those members of society who had the least protection and were exploited. „And he was convicted for that now,“ said the activist.
The Federal Government had repeatedly used for the lawyer. The German Human Rights Commissioner Bärbel Kofler said about the trial in December: „I am very concerned that Wang Quanzhang was not given access to the lawyers he chose during his detention and that the trial was held in camera.“
Since the inauguration of China’s party leader Xi Jinping six years ago, observers have complained of a further deterioration in the human rights situation. In addition to dissidents and civil rights lawyers, minorities such as Tibetans and Uighurs are increasingly being persecuted, as human rights groups criticize.