An undated video has emerged of human rights lawyer Yu Wensheng stating – before he was detained – that he would never give up the right to choose his own attorney.
Yu Wensheng, who persistently called for reform in China, was seized by around a dozen people, including a SWAT team, as he left his Beijing apartment to walk his son to school in January. He circulated an open letter calling for constitutional reforms in China hours before his arrest.
Yu said he appointed two lawyers – Liang Xiaojun and Zhang Weiyu. However, if they were not able to represent him when needed, he wished for his wife to appoint a lawyer on his behalf.
“I will never accept a lawyer appointed by the authorities unless I am tortured,” he said.
Yu had also recorded a video statement dated May 2015 saying that any statements or videos he makes without a lawyer present after he “loses his freedom” do not represent his true intentions.
Yu was held in Residential Surveillance in a Designated Location – a form of secret detention – until mid-April. His wife was given a document from police in Xuzhou notifying her that he had been transferred to the Xuzhou detention centre. He is being held under suspicion of “inciting subversion of state power” and “obstructing public service.”
This week, police showed Yu’s lawyers – appointed by his family – Chang Boyang and Xie Yang a handwritten statement dismissing them, which was signed with Yu’s name.
“I will hire my own lawyers, I ask my wife Xu Yan to please not hire lawyers for me anymore,” the statement said.
The statement was rejected by Xu and the two attorneys, who doubted that it was written by Yu of his own free will.
“There is no way that I am going to accept that Yu Wensheng fired his lawyers of his own free will,” Xu told US-backed Radio Free Asia.
Xu was allowed to speak with her husband briefly by video chat on Monday. He repeated two or three times that he had lost his freedom and was incapable of doing anything, she said.
Yu was one of a group of lawyers who tried to sue the government over the country’s air pollution, and also represented lawyer Wang Quanzhang, one of the human rights lawyers detained in China’s sweeping 2015 crackdown. Wang has yet to be released.