Detained Chinese human rights lawyer Wang Quanzhang has been shortlisted for the Dutch government’s 2017 Human Rights Tulip award.
Wang’s family and friends have not heard from him since he disappeared on August 3, 2015 as part of a sweeping crackdown on human rights lawyers, legal staff and activists in the summer of 2015. He is still being held in detention, with a trial yet to take place.
As 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.
Human rights advocate and researcher Michael Caster, who worked with Wang at the NGO China Action until it was shut down by the Chinese government, told HKFP that Wang deserves the award as much for his devotion to human rights as for the environment in which he fought and suffered.
“Wang is a co-founder of an NGO that trained hundreds of lawyers and rights defenders around China, and developed innovative guides for greater success,” Caster said. “Wang is one of the few rights defense lawyers across China to never stand down from representing clients who others feared to touch, from Christian leaders to Falun Gong practitioners.”
The Tulip is awarded every year to a human rights defender who promotes and supports human rights in innovative ways. It includes a prize of €100,000 (HK$918,854), of which a quarter is dedicated to training and the rest to improving and expanding the work of the winner.
Nominations for the prize are submitted by the public. The nominations are then assessed by an NGO, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and their networks. They choose 10 candidates, and the public votes for three finalists out of the group. The minister of foreign affairs decides the final winner. Voting for the 2017 award starts next Monday and is open until September 6.
The last Chinese recipient of the prize was Ni Yulan, a former lawyer who was jailed twice after giving legal advice to Beijing residents whose homes had been slated for demolition.
Caster said of the award: “As much as an honor to a deserving human rights defender, this award stands to pierce some of China’s authoritarian exterior, showing that despite threats of diplomatic or economic reprisal, the world stands with and recognizes the sacrifices and devotion of Chinese human rights defenders such as Wang Quanzhang.”