The legal team of detained Chinese human rights lawyer Wang Quanzhang have been prevented from seeing their client.
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.
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.
Lawyers Cheng Hai and Lin Qilei, who were hired to represent Wang by his family, requested a meeting with their client on Wednesday morning at the detention centre in Tianjin where he is being held, but staff turned down their request.
Cheng told US-backed Radio Free Asia that they got into a scuffle with a police officer at the detention centre when the lawyers attempted to record their interaction using cellphones.
“[H]e came over to take my phone, my phone was in my pocket, [he] grabbed at my pocket, and suddenly tore my pants apart, the gap was about 10 centimetres,” he said.
Cheng added that the staff at the detention centre had also taken Lin’s cell phone.
He said that they immediately called the police to report their mistreatment, but the matter remained unresolved, and Cheng’s phone was not returned to him until the evening. Cheng said he would make complaints with the Public Security Bureau, the courts, and other departments over the matter.
Wang’s wife Li Wenzu said in July that she was contacted by two lawyers, who told her they had met her husband and that he was in good health. But she says that they were not appointed by her and that the lawyers she hired have been unable to see Wang.
Li went to the detention centre with the family members of others affected in the crackdown to express their support for him on Wednesday. They wore shirts printed with Wang’s face and the slogan: “Free Quanzhang.”
“[E]very Friday, we go to the highest judicial levels to file complaints, we’ve done it 18 times in a row since May 12, [we] will persist with suing.”
Wang is shortlisted for the Human Rights Tulip award, an annual award from the Dutch government.