Human rights lawyer Wang Quanzhang was detained by Chinese authorities in July 2015. He was one of around 300 human rights activists and legal professionals targeted by the state that year in what has been described as the Chinese Communist Party’s “war on law.”
Nearly two years later, the authorities have released no information about his situation or his well-being to his family. The only information his wife Li Wenzu received was a notification of his arrest.
“I don’t know whether he’s alive or dead,” Li told the BBC. “I have had no information at all. He has simply disappeared from the face of the earth. It is so scary, so brutal.”
Li is pictured to the right in the below tweet. To her left is Wang Qiaoling, the wife of respected rights lawyer Li Heping, who was released from detention May 9.
— CHRD人权捍卫者 (@CHRDnet) May 13, 2017
Since his secretive detention, Wang’s family has been harassed by the authorities, a common experience for the loved ones of human rights defenders in China, such as those of Li Heping and Gao Zhisheng.
Examples of harassment include their child being denied schooling and Li being forced out of her rental apartment last year “following threats which her landlord received from state security police,” reported rights website Frontline Defenders.
More recently, state security tried to harass the Beijing lawyer’s family on May 26 as they tried to sue Chinese authorities for his forced disappearance.
See this tweet for some images related to that.
— 王荔蕻 (@wlh8964) May 26, 2017
Many civil rights lawyers who have been released following their detentions in 2015 have spoken of how they were tortured and abused while detained.
Some of those who have been released gave confessions on state-run TV that their supporters say were coerced. Others have been sentenced to prison for “subverting state power.”
The diplomatic missions of 11 countries — Australia, Canada, Japan, Switzerland, Belgium, the Czech Republic, Estonia, France, Germany, Sweden, and the United Kingdom — wrote a joint letter in February that reportedly expressed “growing concern over recent claims of torture and other cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment in cases concerning detained human rights lawyers and other human rights defenders.”
— Victims of Communism (@VoCommunism) May 24, 2017
Li believes her husband has not bent under the pressure and that is why he remains detained.
“I think it might be because my husband hasn’t compromised at all,” Li said. “That’s why his case remains unsolved.”
As a lawyer, Wang had many run-ins with the communist government due to his defending those persecuted by the state, such as Falun Gong practitioners, investigative journalists, and democracy advocates.
The worst incident occurred in Liaocheng City, Shandong Province on June 18, 2015, not long before he was secretly detained. In a room of a courthouse, he was severely beaten for defending Falun Gong practitioners. Wang wrote about the experience in detail, which was published on chinachange.org, part of which follows:
“So these officers of the law pulled me around and started dragging me out of the courtroom. I yelled out: ‘I’m being beaten, why are you beating me!’ A court police officer again began throwing his fists hard into my head and face. My glasses were knocked off.
“I was dragged into a room on the first floor of the courthouse, and was ordered by one of the police to kneel. I refused. They started beating me again. When I asked why, the violent pounding began once more. I again asked — and was again savagely punched. This continued until I didn’t dare venture the question.
“This lasted about about 10 minutes. Once they tamed me, they stopped the beating and had me sit in a chair, and brought me my glasses upon my request. I found that my shirt had been ripped to tatters, my face felt like it was on fire, my head felt swollen, and my whole body was racked with ache.”
Below is an NTD on China report on an earlier incident in 2013 when Wang was detained for defending Falun Gong practitioners in a court in Jiangsu Province: