Friday (9) marks the sixth anniversary of the 709 arrests. Six years on, prominent human rights lawyers in mainland China have either been detained or silenced. Even after they are released from jail, they continue to be monitored and can no longer lead a normal life. They all describe the road of human rights lawyers as having come to an end. Listen to the story of the six-year journey of rights lawyers Wang Quanzhang and Wang Yu.
Wang Yu, a lawyer at Beijing Fengrui Law Firm, was one of the first lawyers arrested in the “709 arrests” and was forced to confess her guilt on television more than once during her more than one-year absence from the outside world.
Almost five years after her release, Wang Yu said that the psychological shadow has not been removed, and she is still living under surveillance every day, often harassed by public security and state security, and has been unable to lead a normal life.
Wang Yu: “I don’t have a passport and I can’t apply for one, so my travels in China are often restricted, for example, when I go to Guangdong, there are state security guards in Guangdong watching me; when I go to Shanghai, I am arrested by Shanghai state security guards and held for a few hours, still under surveillance. This is not just a matter of injustice, their practice behavior is completely illegal.”
Wang Yu: Warned by authorities that further human rights cases will repeat the 709 incident
In many parts of China, the number of lawyers is far below demand, and civil and administrative litigation cases allow clients to appoint people without a lawyer’s license to represent them in court. After her license to practice law was revoked, Wang Yu took on the case as a citizen’s representative, but she said the process was particularly restrictive for her, requiring 10 times more force than a typical representative to successfully fight for her client in court.
She has been involved in a number of high-profile cases, including the “incitement to subvert state power” case of Chongqing private entrepreneur Li Huaikheng and the “vulgar Wiki” case of defendant Niu Tengyu. Wang said that the lawyers who assisted her were threatened by officials to varying degrees, and she was warned that the 709 case would be repeated if she did not give up.
Wang Yu: “When we were involved in these two cases, we used the law to fight for the rights of our clients, but in the process, we kept hitting a wall, and justice was not done in the law. At the same time, we personally, not only me, but also my husband and other lawyers were suppressed and seriously threatened because we did not withdraw from the cases and would lose our lawyer’s license, and we would be restricted in our personal freedom if we did not have a lawyer’s license to represent the cases again.
Wang Yu: China’s law is like a vase, China’s rule of law is dead
From his experience since his arrest, Wang Yu said that China’s law is like a vase, and the deterioration of the rule of law environment has made it difficult for human rights lawyers to survive.
Wang Yu: “Chinese laws are like vases, they look good, but these laws are not used to restrict powerful departments or personnel, but only to restrict disobedient people, especially in the past few years, the rule of law environment continues to deteriorate, you do not know the inner workings of the Chinese government to break the law without being there. We lawyers try hard to fight for survival and work space, but we feel that the space is getting narrower and narrower, we can no longer breathe, and sometimes we feel that the rule of law in China is dead.”
Wang Yu said that there are still many lawyers who are willing to sacrifice in the midst of difficulties to handle human rights cases, and encouraged her not to give up lightly and to continue to assist the disadvantaged as a citizen’s agent while fighting to get her practice license back.
Wang Quanzhang, a human rights lawyer who was released only last year, also tried to provide legal support to eviction seekers as a citizen’s agent after his law license was revoked.
Wang Quanzhang said that his summary of the arrest experience and family members’ coping methods can be a useful reference material for those who seek help.
When I share my experience with new victims, I will talk about how they should respond if they are arrested, how to communicate with powerful departments, and if relatives are arrested, what actions will be more effective for the relatives outside to make the arrested people safer, which are all good and important. also need this kind of support and encouragement from me.”
Wang Quanzhang: unable to defend himself, sighing that the work of human rights lawyers has come to an end
After a four-year hiatus, Wang Quanzhang rejoins the legal profession, believing that the work of a human rights lawyer is more difficult than before, and that the practice of defending clients’ rights through legal proceedings alone has come to an end.
Wang Quanzhang: “I wrote some complaints and accusations, and when I went to the court to file an ordinary civil case, the court said I was blacklisted and could not be a plaintiff. I feel that the case has come to an end.”
However, Wang Quanzhang pointed out that there is still room for human rights lawyers to survive in civil and economic cases. He has no regrets about becoming a human rights lawyer, and he will not destroy his own skills, but will continue to provide assistance and voice for those in need as a human rights defender and legal person.