Released Chinese human rights lawyer Li Heping was force-fed with medicines and sometimes chained up 24-hours a day during his two-year detention, his wife has said.

Li was handed a suspended sentence for subversion of state power at the end of April, but remained in detention until Tuesday, when he was released.

China human rights lawyer
Li Heping (R) after his release. Photo: Weibo.

He was known for defending practitioners of Falun Gong – considered an illegal cult in mainland China – and forcibly evicted villagers. Like many of his human rights law colleagues, he disappeared in July 2015 during what became known as the “709 crackdown” on human rights lawyers.

Photos circulating after the 46-year-old’s release showed that he has become noticeably frail, with his hair having turned white. “I thought it was an elderly friend coming to visit us,” his wife Wang Qiaoling told Hong Kong’s RTHK as he returned home.

Blood pressure medicines

Wang said on Friday her husband had been forced to take medicines during his detention under the pretence of having high blood pressure. “He doesn’t have high blood pressure,” she said, “but in his file they said he did.”

“Then he started thinking there were problems with the medicine, because after he took it, he would have muscle pain, blurred vision and couldn’t see anything.”

Wang added that officials had threatened Li in detention, claiming they would kill his wife and younger brother – rights lawyer Li Chunfu who was released in January.

The same month, the Hong Kong-based China Human Rights Lawyers Concern Group cited “trustworthy sources” as saying that Li had been tortured in detention with electric shocks.

li heping
Li Heping before his arrest. File photo: RFA.

Meanwhile, US-backed outlet RFA reported on Thursday that Li has been made to wear an electronic device tracking his location.

Suspended sentence

After the Tianjin Second Intermediate People’s Court handed down Li’s sentence last month, Wang refused a request from state security personnel and Tianjin police to bring her and her daughter to the northern city to reunite with Li. She feared that they would be put under house arrest.

“Li has been sentenced to three years’ imprisonment, suspended for four years, and deprived of political rights for four years,” read a court statement.

See also: Chinese rights lawyer Li Heping remains in detention after receiving suspended sentence

The trial was conducted in secret, and received no media coverage prior to sentencing.

Elson Tong is a graduate of international relations and former investigations consultant. He has also written for Stand News.