Back to top

Harassment against Wang Quanzhang’s family

Status: 
Incommunicado detention
About the situation

As of 11 July 2018, Wang Quanzhang has completed three full years in detention, following his arrest during the early stages of China’s 709 crackdown on human rights lawyers and their colleagues. Chinese authorities have ignored calls from Chinese civil society, foreign nations, international NGOs and the United Nations, as well as the guidelines of China’s own legal system, in their continued incarceration of the human rights lawyer. More worrying than his prolonged detention is that no one has seen or heard from the defender since his visit with lawyer Chen Youxi in July 2017. Many friends and family fear that Wang Quanzhang’s concealment indicates that the defender is currently in perilous mental or physical condition.

On 30 August 2016 the son of human rights defender Mr Wang Quanzhang was denied permission to enrol in an elementary school in Beijing. The wife of the human rights defender, Ms Li Wenzu, was also forced out of her rented home on 27 August 2016 following threats which her landlord received from state security police.

About Wang Quanzhang

Wang QuanzhangWang Quanzhang is a human rights lawyer and an employee at Fengrui Law Firm in Beijing. He has a history of taking on sensitive cases including defending Falun Gong practitioners, investigative journalists and democracy advocates. He has been harassed, intimidated and beaten as a result of his work.

12 July 2018
Wang Quanzhang begins fourth year of illegal, incommunicado detention

As of 11 July 2018, Wang Quanzhang has completed three full years in detention, following his arrest during the early stages of China’s 709 crackdown on human rights lawyers and their colleagues. Chinese authorities have ignored calls from Chinese civil society, foreign nations, international NGOs and the United Nations, as well as the guidelines of China’s own legal system, in their continued incarceration of the human rights lawyer. More worrying than his prolonged detention is that no one has seen or heard from the defender since his visit with lawyer Chen Youxi in July 2017. Many friends and family fear that Wang Quanzhang’s concealment indicates that the defender is currently in perilous mental or physical condition.

Wang Quanzhang is a human rights lawyer and an employee at Fengrui Law Firm in Beijing. He has a history of taking on sensitive cases including defending Falun Gong practitioners, investigative journalists and democracy advocates. He has been harassed, intimidated and beaten as a result of his work. He is also the last of hundreds of lawyers, legal aids and other defenders targeted in the 709 crackdown to remain in judicial limbo.

Throughout Wang Quanzhang’s detention, supporters have loudly spread word of his case across China and the world. At the head of this effort is Li Wenzu, who is married to Wang Quanzhang and who has also suffered surveillance, restriction of movement and continued harassment as a result of her advocacy for her husband. Li Wenzu has been routinely forced to remain in her Beijing home during significant political events in China’s capital, including during the visit of Donald Trump in November 2017.

On 5 April 2018, Li Wenzu and colleagues began a protest march from Beijing to Wang Quanzhang’s believed place of detention in the neighbouring Tianjin Province. Chinese authorities broke up the march six days later and forced Li Wenzu to return to her home. The following day, on 11 April 2018, Li Wenzu, her mother, and her son were forbidden to leave their apartment. Men guarding the door, believed to be plainclothes police, informed the family that they would be killed if they attempted to leave. While Li Wenzu’s mother and son were later allowed to leave the house, Li Wenzu was forbidden to do so. Meanwhile, between 40 and 50 individuals, comprising members of the neighbourhood watch and plainclothes police, had been assembled in the courtyard outside the apartment, from where they shouted slurs and cries of “traitor!” at Li Wenzu and her family. For her bravery and perseverance in support of her husband, Li Wenzu was awarded with the China Citizens Movement Outstanding Citizenship Award in December 2017.

Front Line Defenders condemns the ongoing detention of Wang Quanzhang and demands that China provide immediate information on Wang Quanzhang’s whereabouts, health, and legal status. Front Line Defenders believes that his continued persecution constitutes an act of reprisal by Chinese authorities against Wang Quanzhang’s legal work defending the rights of Chinese citizens.

2 September 2016
Harassment against human rights defender’s family

On 30 August 2016 the son of human rights defender Mr Wang Quanzhang was denied permission to enrol in an elementary school in Beijing. The wife of the human rights defender, Ms Li Wenzu, was also forced out of her rented home on 27 August 2016 following threats which her landlord received from state security police.

Download the Urgent Appeal (PDF)

Wang Quanzhang is a human rights lawyer who has been held incommunicado since his detention on 9 July 2015 and in January 2016 was charged with ‘subversion of state power’. While practising law, Wang Quanzhang had a history of taking on sensitive cases including defending Falun Gong practitioners, investigative journalists and democracy advocates. Front Line Defenders issued an Urgent Appeal regarding his case on 12 January 2016. If found guilty, the human rights defender could face up to 15 years imprisonment.

On 30 August 2016, a member of the state security police forcibly entered the same taxi as Li Wenzu while she travelled with her 3.5 year old son to enrol him in elementary school in Beijing.  While completing the enrolment process, Li Wenzu was monitored by the member of the state security force. Following the payment of the tuition fee and signing of the contract, Li Wenzu was  informed by a member of staff that the school could no longer accept her son’s enrolment following a discussion between state security agents and the principal of the school.

This is not the first case of harassment of the family of Wang Quanzhang. On 27 August 2016, Li Wenzu was informed by her landlord that he could no longer rent the apartment to her family because he had been detained in a police station for a number of hours and forced to evict the human rights defender’s family. The next day, Li Wenzu was followed by a state security agent while searching for another home, and a new landlord refused to rent an apartment to her after the state security agent spoke with him. In recent weeks, Li Wenzu has been constantly followed by state security police each time she leaves her home.

On 19 August 2016, Li Wenzu was followed by three unidentified persons from her home and while she travelled on the subway. When she exited the subway station, one of the men pushed her and took her bag, and later reported to police, that in fact Li Wenzu had hit him. She was subsequently detained at Beijing Xinyuanli police station for a number of hours.

Front Line Defenders is deeply concerned about the harassment against the family of Wang Quanzhang. It is further extremely concerned by the charge of 'subversion of state power' against Wang Quanzhang, which it believes to be directly linked to Wang Quanzhang's peaceful and legitimate work in human rights.

Front Line Defenders urges the authorities in China to:

1. Immediately cease all further harassment of Wang Quanzhang’s family;

2. Immediately drop all charges against Wang Quanzhang as it is believed that they are solely motivated by his legitimate and peaceful work in defence of human rights;

3. Cease targeting all human rights defenders in China and guarantee in all circumstances that they are able to carry out their legitimate human rights activities without fear of reprisals and free of all restrictions.

12 January 2016
Charging of human rights defenders following months of incommunicado detention

On 11 and 12 January 2016, the families of five human rights lawyers and a legal assistant received official notice that their family members had been formally charged. All six individuals had been held in secret detention for six months.

Mr Zhou Shifeng, Mr Wang Quanzhang, Ms Zhao Wei and Ms Li Shuyun have all been charged with subversion of state power, while Mr Xie Yanyi and Mr Xie Yang have been charged with inciting subversion of state power. The maximum penalty for the crime of 'subversion of state power' is life imprisonment. There is a 15 year maximum penalty for the crime of 'inciting subversion of state power'.

On 10 July 2015, Zhou Shifeng, Wang Quanzhang, Li Shuyun and Zhao Wei were detained by police in Beijing. On 11 July 2015, Xie Yang was detained in Changsha, Hunan province. On 12 July 2015, Xie Yani was also detained in Beijing. None of the six have been permitted access to lawyers and all have been held incommunicado since their detentions. They were among over 300 lawyers, legal assistants and human rights defenders who were detained, placed under residential surveillance, subjected to travel bans or harassed in the period following 9 July last year. It is believed that up to 20 other human rights defenders remain in some form of police custody, in addition to the aforementioned six.

14 September 2015
Whereabouts of at least 18 human rights defenders remain unknown two months after their detentions

9 September 2015 marked two months to the day since a nationwide crackdown on human rights defenders began in China.

The whereabouts of at least 18 defenders remain unknown following their detention by police in July. It is thought that at least nine others are also detained. Many of those missing or detained are lawyers who have been at the forefront of the human rights movement in China over the past number of years.

Beginning on 9 July 2015, scores of human rights defenders, mostly involved in legal activism, were taken in for questioning by police in a number of cities across China. While many were released shortly after, it is reported that at least 27 remain in police custody. The families and lawyers of at least 18 of those detained have not been informed of where they are being held, nor have their lawyers been permitted to meet with them. No information has been received about their physical or mental well-being. All but one of those detained have been refused access to their lawyers, with some legal representatives informed that this is because their clients' cases involve 'national security'.

On 9 July 2015, human rights lawyer Ms Wang Yu and her husband Mr Bao Longjun, a legal activist, were detained and subsequently placed under 'residential surveillance' in an unknown location. They are being held on charges of 'inciting subversion of state power' and Bao Longjun also faces the charge of 'picking quarrels and provoking troubles'. The following day, a number of lawyers and legal assistants Messrs Wang Quangzhang, Xie Yuandong, Li Heping, Liu Sixin, Zhou Shifeng, Huang Liqun and Ms Li Shuyun were seized by police in Beijing. Their whereabouts are currently unknown, as are the whereabouts of Ms Wang Fang, an accountant at a law firm where some of the detained lawyers work, and Mr Hu Shigen, a human rights defender and writer who previously spent 16 years in prison as a result of his human rights activities. Three further human rights defenders, namely Messrs Gou Hongguo, Liu Yongping and Lin Bin, were also detained on 10 July and remain under 'residential surveillance' at an unknown location.

That same day, lawyer Mr Sui Muqing was detained in Guangzhou and has also been placed under 'residential surveillance' at an unknown location on charges of 'inciting subversion of state power'. On 12 July lawyer Mr Xie Yanyi was also detained in Beijing and subsequently placed under 'residential surveillance' at an unknown location on charges of 'disrupting court order' and 'inciting subversion of state power'. On 20 July Ms Gao Yue, an assistant to lawyer Li Heping, was detained and subsequently placed under 'residential surveillance' at an unknown location on charges of 'picking quarrels and provoking troubles' and 'inciting subversion of state power'. On 1 August, Mr Li Chunfu, the younger brother of Li Heping was disappeared following a raid on his home by police in Beijing. He has not been heard from since. In addition to the defenders named above, at least nine others reportedly remain in detention.

14 July 2015
Human rights lawyers detained during crackdown

Since 9 July 2015, the Chinese police have detained or questioned more than 100 human rights defenders and their family members.

While many of them have been released, at least six human rights lawyers, namely Ms Wang Yu and Messrs Zhou Shifeng, Wang Quanzhang, Huang Liqun, Sui Muqing and Xie Yang, remain imprisoned or under house arrest.

The human rights defenders were arrested and detained by police at different times between 9 and 11 July. Sui Muqing and Xie Yang are accused of inciting subversion of state power and have been placed under house arrest. Four lawyers from Beijing Fengrui Law Firm, Wang Yu, Zhou Shifeng, Wang Quanzhang and Huang Liqun, were taken from their homes or offices by police during this period and remain in detention. Wang Yu's husband and fellow human rights defender, Mr Bao Longjun, has also been detained by police in Beijing.

This most recent crackdown started on 9 July, when Wang Yu was kidnapped in the early morning after sending her friends a text message saying that the internet connection and electricity had been cut off at her home and that people were trying to break in. Shortly after her detention, more than 100 Chinese lawyers joined an open letter protesting her disappearance. Later some of those lawyers who signed the letter, as well as her colleagues from Beijing Fengrui Law Firm were detained.

Wang Yu, Zhou Shifeng, Wang Quanzhang and Huang Liqun are human rights lawyers working for Fengrui Law Firm, based in Beijing. The Law Firm has handled a number of high-profile human rights cases including that of the Uighur human rights defenderMr Ilham Tohti, who is currently serving a life sentence on separatism charges. The firm’s director, Zhou Shifeng, represented Zhang Miao, a Chinese journalist who had worked with a German magazine reporting on the Hong Kong pro-democracy protests in 2014 and who was recently released after nine months in detention. Clients of Wang Yu include practitioners of Falun Gong, the religious group banned in China. Guangzhou-based human rights lawyer Sui Muqing, who has been under a travel ban since May 2015, is known for representing clients in so-called politically sensitive cases. Xie Yang is a Hunan-based human rights lawyer who has represented the family of Xu Chunhe, a man shot dead by policeHeilongjiang Province in May 2015.

8 April 2013
Release of human rights lawyer Wang Quanzhang

In the early hours of 6 April 2013, human rights lawyer Mr Wang Quanzhang was released from detention in the province of eastern Jiangsu, approximately 56 hours after he was detained and placed under a 10-day judicial detention for “disrupting court order”. The human rights defender was detained for photographing a document which he had been asked to submit to the court, as it was his only copy.

The Jingjiang People's Court released Wang Quanzhang early on the grounds that the detention had already served as a punishment and a warning. However, the human rights defender believes that his release is due to public pressure. Wang Quanzhang had been defending Mr Zhu Yanian, who is a member of Falun Gong and was being tried for 'using a cult organisation to undermine the implementation of the law'.

5 April 2013
Human rights lawyer Mr Wang Quanzhang detained following hearing

On 3 April 2013 human rights defender Mr Wang Quanzhang was detained after a hearing at Jingjiang City People's Court in Jiangsu province. He was subsequently placed in judicial custody for ten days for 'disrupting court order'.

On 3 April 2013 Wang Quanzhang was defending a Falun Gong client, Mr Zhu Yanian, at Jingjiang City People's Court in Jiangsu Province. At the adjournment of the hearing, the human rights defender was reportedly refused permission to leave the court by the presiding judge, who ordered that he be detained. 

The family of the defendant, who were waiting outside the courthouse to speak to Wang Quanzhang, were given no information about his whereabouts. On 4 April, at 5.30pm, a statement was posted on the court's website to inform that Wang Quanzhang had been placed in judicial custody for 'disrupting court order'.

Although the statement referred to the violation as 'serious' it did not specify what Wang Quanzhang had done to warrant the charge. Since taking on the case of Zhu Yanian last year, the human rights defender has been denied access to his client, who is being tried for 'using a cult organisation to undermine the implementation of the law'.