Families of Chinese human rights lawyers were grounded on the eve of Thursday’s UN Human Rights Day, according to their social media posts.

Lawyers Wang Quanzhang, Li Heping, and Yu Wensheng’s homes were all visited by unidentified people on Wednesday morning, preventing them from going out.

Li Wenzu with Wang Quanzhang and their son. Photo: Suyutong, via Twitter.

According to videos posted by Li Wenzu – Wang’s wife – someone taped over the camera on their door at around 6am on Wednesday whilst a group of people stood outside their home. Li was told that Wang and his family were not allowed to leave.

She was also not allowed to take her father to the hospital for a check up later in the day.

Wang, a prominent lawyer who defended political activists and victims of land seizures, was detained in 2015 as part of the “709 crackdown,” which targeted hundreds of lawyers and rights activists. He was reunited with his family in April this year.

Li Heping and his family were also grounded ahead of Human Rights Day. Wang Qiaoling, Li’s wife, said in a video on Twitter on Wednesday that a group of people stood outside their home, and stopped her family from opening the door when Wang wanted to go out and walk her dog.

Li’s daughter was prevented from going to school that day. Li later stood on the roof outside his home and shouted at the people outside their residence.

“When I practice as a lawyer, you destroyed my licence; when I have a child, you don’t allow my kid to go to school, and now you won’t let us out of the house, are you people thugs?” Li is heard saying in the clip.

Li Heping. File photo: Wang Quanzhang, via Twitter.

Li was known for defending practitioners of Falun Gong – considered an illegal cult in mainland China – and forcibly evicted villagers.

Also detained in the mass crackdown in 2015, Li was handed a three-year suspended prison sentence for subversion of state power in April 2017, and was released a month later, where his wife said he was force-fed medicine during his detention.

Xu Yan – Yu Wensheng’s wife – was stopped from going out to exercise on Wednesday too: “Human Rights Day, 6am in the morning, I was going to send my child to school when seven people blocked the doorway and [were] not letting me out,” said Xu on Twitter.

“They said that for sure they won’t let me out on December 9 and 10. They said they have to stop me from participating in a Human Rights Day event at the European Union’s Embassy or the United States Embassy.”

Yu Wensheng. Photo: RFA.

Yu represented human rights activists including Falun Gong activists and Wang. He was arrested in 2018 and was sentenced to four years imprisonment and deprivation of political rights for three years in June this year, following a conviction for “inciting subversion of state power.” The charge is often used to silence dissidents.

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Candice Chau

Candice is a reporter at Hong Kong Free Press. She previously worked as a researcher at a local think tank. She has a BSocSc in Politics and International Relations from the University of Manchester and a MSc in International Political Economy from London School of Economics.