Monday, July 22, 2024

Human Rights Lawyers Under Renewed Crackdown and Nasty Harassment

On April 13, lawyer Yu Wensheng (余文生) and his wife Xu Yan (许艳) were on their way to the EU Delegation in Beijing for a meeting when they were intercepted on the subway by four plainclothes policemen. German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock was in Tianjin and due to arrive in Beijing the next day. The police announced that the couple had been summoned and forcibly took them away to Bajiao police station, Jingshan District. The next day their relatives were told that the couple had been criminally detained for allegedly “picking quarrels and creating trouble.” They have remained incarcerated since then, and four guards have been stationed at their apartment, two outside and two inside, with their 18-year-old son at home alone. Visiting friends were harassed, and lawyers’ attempts to meet them in the detention center have been stonewalled.

Lawyer Yu Wensheng and his wife were taken out of the subway station on April 13.

Meanwhile, Wang Yu, Zhou Shifeng, and other lawyers were placed under temporary house arrest during the German foreign minister’s visit.

Little did they foresee that it was just the beginning of a nasty government harassment campaign that remains ongoing after two months.

On April 19, lawyer Wang Quanzhang (王全璋) and his wife Li Wenzu (李文足) received a notice from their landlord who demanded that they move out of their rental home in Shunyi District within a week.  On April 26, the landlord came and cut the electricity and natural gas. In the three weeks that followed, the couple and their little boy moved from a hotel to an apartment to another hotel to another apartment, and in each place, they were driven out. In the second hotel, they managed to stay for 9 days before the hotel refused to let them continue to stay because two thugs, assigned by the government, stationed themselves in the corridor of the hotel 24 hours a day. On May 24, they moved to a friend’s apartment, but three days later at 11 pm, five policemen showed up claiming that there were people using drugs on the property.

On June 12, they moved to an apartment in Changping District that they rented from another friend who currently lives in the U.S. The owner made a video holding the signed contract, the deed, and stating that his apartment had been rented to Wang Quanzhang for five years. On the same evening, police showed up again, accusing the family of squatting and demanding to enter their new home. The wrangling went into the small hours of the night. In the early evening of June 14, three men followed Wang Quanzhang upstairs after he went downstairs to drop off the garbage. They prevented him from entering the apartment, and one of them lay on the floor saying that Wang Quanzhang had hurt him. A police officer by the name Wang Kaiguo (王开国) entered the apartment, followed by more police and property management personnel, who repeated the accusation of squatting and tried to drive away the family. They gave the family 48 hours to provide various documentation to prove that the contract, the landlord’s video, and the deed were real. The next day, June 15, their electricity was severed but later restored by workers from the power company.

With great concern and anxiety, we await to learn what this thuggish government will do next to lawyer Wang Quanzhang and his family.

Lawyer Li Heping (李和平), his wife Wang Qiaoling (王峭岭), and their young daughter faced similar forced eviction and harassment. Eleven days after they were forced out of their rental home in Shunyi District and had moved to Tongzhou District, the landlord suddenly rescinded the contract and ordered them to leave by removing the gate of the small courtyard and cutting off water and electricity.

In early June, the family went to Chengdu to visit their son and celebrate his birthday. On June 9, Li Heping, Wang Qiaoling and their daughter were blocked from going to Thailand at Chengdu Tianfu Airport for “possibly endangering national security.” Wang Qiaoling said her family is in a situation where they are given no peace to live and no freedom to leave.

On April 30, lawyer Wang Yu (王宇) was standing outside her building waiting for her mother when someone upstairs poured dirty water on her.

All of the above lawyers are 709 lawyers who have been imprisoned, tortured, and disbarred. Prior to the latest campaign of harassment, from the onset of the 709 Crackdown in July 2015 to this March, the family of Li Wenzu and Wang Quanzhang had been forcefully evicted 4 times, while the family of Wang Qiaoling and Li Heping had been 8 times.

Lawyer Yu Wensheng had been released for only a little over a year in March 2022. On May 21, he and his wife were formally arrested.

Explaining why the Chinese authorities are stepping up harassment of the human rights lawyers, Wang Quanzhang wrote: “Entering April, a lot of things happened: [dissidents and citizen movement leaders] Xu Zhiyong and Ding Jiaxi were given heavy sentences, EU officials visited China, French president Macron visited China, the German foreign minister visited China, lawyer Yu Wensheng and his wife Xu Yan were detained. In the residential compound, police surveillance over us increased, giving me the impression that they might arrest us. To them, we are trouble; so they are determined to drive us out of their jurisdiction. To that end, they have employed sinister means – following us closely wherever we go; even forcing us to sit in their vehicles to go places. When we move to another rental property, they would notify police in that jurisdiction to make sure we are being expelled. Of the hotels that took us in, some were even temporarily suspended from operation as a punishment. When we wanted to sign a long-term lease with a landlord but were unable to meet in person and assess the owner, we ended up having landlords who were so willing to cooperate with the police in the ugliest manner possible. It’s unbelievable.”

“I will stand strong and live for the sake of my child,” said Li Wenzu in a Twitter post.

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