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Wife of convicted Chinese human rights lawyer says he is innocent, calls for international help

Li Wenzu, wife of convicted human rights lawyer Wang Quanzhang, looks at a family photo taken before her husband's detention, at their home in Beijing, China, on Jan. 28, 2019. (Mainichi/Keisuke Kawazu)

BEIJING -- The wife of prominent Chinese human rights lawyer Wang Quanzhang, who was sentenced to four and a half years in prison for subversion of state power on Jan. 28, told the Mainichi Shimbun that her husband is innocent.

"His past detention and the ruling are illegal," said Li Wenzu from her home in the Chinese capital.

Wang, 42, was a lawyer for members of the banned Falun Gong meditation sect, and handled land rights cases for poor villagers. He was one of more than 300 human rights lawyers and activists detained in China in July 2015 in a sweeping crackdown. Wang was indicted in February 2017 for alleged repeated provocative expressions and actions.

His long-term detention has been criticized by the United States and Europe. The latest court decision is certain to raise international criticism against Beijing even more concerning its opaque judicial system, which does not even allow family members to attend trials. Wang is one of at least 14 lawyers and activists who were tried and given sentences in the mass detention case.

According to Li, she cannot see her husband or speak with him about whether he wants to appeal the decision, which was released through an online statement. The No. 2 Intermediate Court in Tianjin, southeast of Beijing, also said that Wang's political rights were being withheld for five years. However, the court did not explain in detail why it found Wang guilty.

Li said she will accept "whatever choice my husband makes," and added, "This is not the end," seeking the support of the international community. She explained that "every right" of Wang and his family has been taken away, criticizing the judicial authorities that did not allow her to attend the sentencing session as an observer.

Wang has never been allowed to meet with his family members face-to-face since his detention three and a half years ago. Li said she only learned of the court decision on Jan. 28 from one of her supporters. "I don't know the reason for the ruling, or when I can see him. I am most worried about his health."

Li and her supporters have vocally complained about the unfairness of Wang's detention under intense pressure from China's authorities. She shaved her hair in protest, because the pronunciation of "no hair" and "no law" is the same in Chinese, and she wanted to make a point that lawlessness is not acceptable.

China will soon celebrate the Lunar New Year from Feb. 5, the most important annual celebration when family members are supposed to gather together. On the table in Li's home lay a picture taken 15 years ago during the Lunar New Year, with Wang before detention and their son. The family members are smiling in the picture, arms around one another.

"This will be the fourth Lunar New Year since we got separated," said Li, with tears rolling down her cheeks.

(Japanese original by Keisuke Kawazu, China General Bureau)

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