The family of Wang Quanzhang, a lawyer detained in China’s 2015 crackdown, have been followed by police as they gathered at the Supreme People’s Procuratorate in Beijing to file a lawsuit against the authorities.

Wang was detained as part of a sweeping crackdown on human rights lawyers, legal staff and activists in the summer of 2015. A lawyer at the Fengrui law firm, which saw many of its staff detained in the crackdown, Wang had worked on the cases of Falun Gong practitioners, investigative journalists and democracy advocates.

Wang was indicted for “inciting subversion of state power” in February, but the case still has not gone to trial. Other prominent lawyers detained during the crackdown have been tried or released on bail.

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Wang’s wife Li Wenzu went to the Procuratorate on Friday morning along with his elderly parents and his sister, who travelled to Beijing from their hometown in Shandong.

Knowing there was a high probability that their suit would not be accepted, the family filed it as a symbolic gesture, hoping to pressure authorities to provide information on Wang’s situation.

They were accompanied by Wang Qiaoling, the wife of another lawyer who has been working with Li to advocate their husbands’ release, the father of Wu Gan, a detained legal assistant who worked at Wang’s law firm, and other friends and supporters.

Li told HKFP that there were about ten police cars waiting outside Wang’s residence – where she is staying with her son – in Beijing on Friday morning, along with uniformed and plainclothes police.

The police cars followed them from there to the procuratorate. Along the way, police and “secret police” in plainclothes started filming the group.

Wang’s family confront police and plainclothes police who are following and filming them. Photo: Activist.

Li said, “Every time we… come to make complaints, they treat us this way. I don’t know what they’re afraid of. We’re not holding guns or cannons in our hands. We’re only safeguarding our rights in accordance with legal procedures.”

She said she has been watched or followed by police or plainclothes police on a “daily basis” since her husband was detained.

Wang has not been heard from since he disappeared on July 10, 2015. In the 685 days since he was gone, Wang has not been allowed to meet the lawyers hired by his family or to see his family, his wife said.

Li said the delay in his case may have been due to his refusal to compromise with the authorities. “Wang Quanzhang is an especially stubborn person – he is a lawyer, he did not commit any crimes, everything he did is right and legal, perhaps that’s why there’s been no news of him and why the case drags on, with no solution,” she said.

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Wang’s family and their supporters near the procuratorate. Photo: Li Wenzu.

She fears he may have been tortured or is no longer alive, noting reports of other lawyers who have been tortured in detention.

“In 685 days there has not been a trace of information about him. I really wonder whether he was tortured so severely that he has been disabled, and that’s why they don’t dare to let lawyers see him.”

The lawsuit was not accepted by the procuratorate staff, who said the family had not followed appropriate procedures.

Catherine is a Canadian journalist and photographer who lived in Beijing for almost two years, working in TV and online media. Aside from Hong Kong and mainland affairs, she is also interested in urban spaces, art and feminism. She holds a BA in Literature and Art History from the University of British Columbia.