Prominent Chinese human rights lawyer Wang Quanzhang (王全璋) was yesterday sentenced to four-and-a-half years in prison on the charge of subversion of state power, more than three years after he was detained in a sweeping crackdown on the legal profession.
The No. 2 Intermediate Court in Tianjin announced the sentence in an online statement, adding that Wang’s political rights were also being withheld for five years.
Wang’s wife, Li Wenzu (李文足), told reporters that she is worried about her husband’s health while he is incarcerated.
“Wang Quanzhang has never committed a crime, but they still forcibly charged him with a crime,” Li said. “I think this is because he wouldn’t compromise with them, wouldn’t admit any crime.”
“So I firmly refuse to recognize or accept this result,” Li said.
In a statement on Twitter, she said that her husband was innocent and the “inhuman” behavior of law enforcement officials toward Wang was a violation of Chinese law.
Wang was a member of the Fengrui law firm that was well known for its advocacy work. As such, he pursued land rights cases on behalf of poor villagers and represented members of the banned Falun Gong movement.
Rights groups condemned the verdict, with Amnesty International China researcher Doriane Lau calling it a ““gross injustice.”
“It’s outrageous that Wang Quanzhang is being punished for peacefully standing up for human rights in China. He must be immediately and unconditionally released,” Lau said in a statement.
Human Rights Watch said the sentence made a “mockery of the “rule of law” being championed by the Chinese Communist Party under Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平).
“Authorities’ treatment of him ... is the true metric of rule of law in China,” the group said in a statement.
Wang was tried in a closed hearing last month after being held without access to his lawyers or family since 2015, when he became one of more than 200 legal activists detained during a crackdown.
It was not clear whether his time in detention would be counted against his sentence.
The subversion charge is only hazily defined and it was not clear what specific acts Wang had been accused of committing.
After Wang’s hearing on Dec. 26 last year, the UN called for Chinese authorities to “ensure his due process rights are respected” and said that there were “serious human rights concerns” about the way his case had been handled.
Additional reporting by Reuters
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