Politics & Protest SinoBeat

Youngest detainee in Chinese lawyer crackdown released on bail

Zhao Wei, a legal assistant and the youngest detainee in China’s crackdown on lawyers last July, has been released on bail almost a year after she was taken away by authorities. However, charges against Zhao were not disclosed.

Zhao was working for human rights lawyer Li Heping, when she was taken away on July 10, 2015. Her case received a flood of media attention due to her young age and rumours that she was mistreated during her detention. Tianjin police said on their Weibo account page that the 24-year-old requested bail and they agreed since she “made candid confessions and exhibited good behaviour.”

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Zhao Wei. Photo: RFA.

Commenters on China’s Twitter-like platform, however, reacted strongly to the release, asking the police to clarify what she was charged with. One said: “What crimes has she committed? How come you don’t dare to say this?”

Another said “I’m more afraid of the triads – there is no religion and they are shameless.”

One commenter, however, posted a screenshot of an old Weibo post, in which a newspaper reported that she was one of the seven lawyers being charged for subversion or inciting subversion of state power.

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Weibo post announcing Zhao Wei’s release on bail. Photo: Weibo screencap.

Zhao posted on her Weibo account after her release saying that “the afternoon sun is great, the freedom to breathe feels great… I am well, thank you for missing me.”

“I just want to enjoy some peace, enjoy happy times with my mom and dad. There are many feelings which I am willing to slowly share with everybody,” she said.

zhao wei weibo post

Zhao Wei’s Weibo post. Photo: Weibo screencap.

“As her defence, we were informed earlier that Zhao Wei may be released on bail, and it was proven to be true by the Tianjin police. It could be that the police knew that covering up the news of Zhao Wei’s bail was out of the questions. And after learning the lesson from Gao Yue and Li Shuyun’s release, they chose to take the initiative and publicly disclose the news to avoid adverse reactions,” said Yan Huafeng, the defence lawyer appointed by Zhao Wei’s family, in a statement.

HKFP contacted Zhao’s lawyer Dong Yanan and Dong’s assistant, but they could not be reached. According to the China Human Rights Lawyers Concern Group, Dong was appointed to represent Zhao by the authorities.

See also: Legal reps and wives of detained China lawyers released after police station protest

Last year, China detained and formally arrested many human rights lawyers for “subversion of state power,” on July 9 and 10. Many lawyers remain in detention in what is known as the “709 crackdown.”

Youngest detainee in Chinese lawyer crackdown released on bail