The wife of detained Chinese human rights lawyer Wang Quanzhang has expressed fears for his health after receiving more information about his situation in prison.

Wang Quanzhang was among dozens of lawyers and activists jailed in a wide-reaching clampdown in 2015. He is the only one who has not been tried or released.

Last Friday, Wang’s wife Li Wenzu told HKFP she was informed by a trusted source that a lawyer had been able to meet her husband. She said she was told that “his body is normal, and his mind is normal.” However, she posted two more updates on Thursday and Friday, expressing increasing concern over his plight.

An activist holds a sign calling for Wang Quanzhang’s release in Hong Kong. Photo: HKFP/Catherine Lai.

Li said she has been communicating with lawyer Liu Weiguo to understand the situation, and she was told that her husband was being given medication for high blood pressure.

An update on Wang’s situation signed by lawyer Liu Weiguo was circulated online on Wednesday. The notice said that Liu was appointed by Wang to be his defence lawyer in late June, and met with him last Thursday. Repeated calls to a number listed on Liu’s Weibo account indicated that the line was busy.

Li said her husband did not have high blood pressure before he was detained: “He washes in cold water even in the winter, and often carried me up to the seventh floor,” she said.

‘I will not stop speaking out’

She expressed concern over her husband’s health, citing other allegations of mistreatment made by released lawyers. The wife of Li Heping, another lawyer caught up in the crackdown, said he was force-fed medicine – also supposedly for high blood pressure – during his two-year detention.

Li Wenzu said she was warned by her husband’s lawyer that Wang could be mistreated if they spoke out, and therefore he has not taken calls from the media. However, Li told HKFP: “Wang Quanzhang has not returned home – I will not stop speaking out.”

Li Wenzu. Photo: Li Wenzu, via Twitter.

Wang reportedly also said that he did not experience “hard violence.” However, the statement only sparked more fears in Li, who feared he had been mistreated in other “inhumane” ways such as being chained or forced to remain in uncomfortable positions for long periods of time. Li Heping also reportedly endured such treatment.

Wang also said he wished to be defended by his own wife and lawyer Cheng Hai, but the authorities did not allow it.

Torture fears

Frances Eve, researcher at NGO Chinese Human Rights Defenders, told HKFP: “Li Wenzu has every reason to fear that her husband has been tortured in the past three years of incommunicado detention. Several detainees in the ‘709’ crackdown on human rights lawyers came home after being held in the same conditions as Wang with serious and credible allegations of torture. Disturbingly, several made the same allegation – that they had been forced to take medication without knowing what it was.”

“Forcing a detainee to take unnecessary medications is a form of torture. International human rights norms state that all detainees have the right to see a doctor of their own choice, specifically because state-appointed doctors may be complicit in torture,” Eve added.

Catherine Lai

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.