One of the most prominent detainees in China’s crackdown on human rights lawyers and activists has said she was influenced by foreign forces after being released on bail.

Wang Yu, the first to be detained in the crackdown last year, said in an interview conducted in Tianjin with the Oriental Daily that the Beijing Fengrui law firm was used by foreign forces to stir up stories about human rights incidents and tarnish China’s reputation. Similar interviews at the same location were also posted by Chinese media The Paper and iFeng.

Fengrui saw many of its lawyers detained in the suppression. Wang, a lawyer at the firm, was arrested in the early hours of July 9, 2015. Her husband Bao Longjun and teenage son were also taken away as they were at the airport leaving the country.

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Photo: Screenshot from video.

In the interview published on Monday, Wang told Oriental Daily that all of the lawyers at the Fengrui law office had gone abroad and received training from foreign forces, which had taught them ways to dodge government investigation and “influenced them with Western thinking.”

She added that Zhou Shifeng, who was the director of the Beijing Fengrui law firm, was not qualified as a lawyer.

Wang and Bao were charged with “subverting state power” by Chinese authorities in January, while her son was detained in Myanmar after attempting to escape surveillance to reach America in October last year. He remains under close surveillance.

She said that “[the foreign forces] are trying to use me and my family as hostages to… attack the Chinese government. I am very angry about it.”

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Wang Yu. File photo: Stand News.

Wang received the Ludovic Trarieux Prize for human rights in June. However, she told the Oriental Daily that the committee wanted to use her to attack the government and that she does not recognise, acknowledge or accept the prize. She told the paper that she was Chinese and would not accept the prize now or in the future.

Wang represented prominent clients in the past, including Ilham Tohti, an Uighur intellectual, and the “feminist five,” a group of five women who were detained after campaigning for women’s rights.

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Wang Yu protesting to see her client in a case in 2014.

Patrick Poon, researcher at Amnesty International, told HKFP that “it is still unclear why she would say that in the video. While we don’t have any evidence to say that she was coerced into making those comments, it is also shocking for her lawyers and friends as they still cannot reach her.”

Poon said that “the incident would increase the risk of other detained lawyers as it is very likely that some of them might be treated similarly.” He added that “even though Wang Yu has been ‘released on bail’ she is subject to restrictions for one year and she can be prosecuted again.”

A trial involving several lawyers detained in the same crackdown and charged with “subverting state power” was rumoured to be held on Monday. Poon said that “although we don’t have any evidence, it is strange to see the coincidence.”

chantal yuen

Chantal Yuen

Chantal Yuen is a Hong Kong journalist interested in issues dealing with religion and immigration. She majored in German and minored in Middle Eastern studies at Princeton University.