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Public Statement: China (February 2019)

The Law Society of Ontario expresses grave concern about the ongoing detention and sentencing of lawyer Wang Quanzhang in China
 
Toronto, ON — The Law Society of Ontario expresses grave concern about the ongoing detention and sentencing of lawyer Wang Quanzhang in China.
 
Wang Quanzhang is a human rights lawyer of the Beijing Fengrui Law Firm in China. The Law Society has previously intervened on his behalf after he was arrested and detained for exercising his legitimate professional duties. We have expressed our concerns in our letter dated October 2017. I enclose a copy of this letter for your ease of reference.
 
Wang Quanzhang first disappeared in July 2015 during the “709 crackdown”, and was formally arrested on January 8, 2016. There have been credible reports that he has been subjected to severe torture in jail, including with electric batons. The detention of Wang Quanzhang is believed to be based solely on his legal advocacy for certain clients. He has a history of taking on politically sensitive cases, including defending persecuted followers of China’s banned spiritual movement, Falun Gong, as well as investigative journalists and democracy advocates.
 
According to credible reports, Wang Quanzhang was sentenced to four years and six months in prison on January 28, 2019. The Tianjin No. 2 Intermediate People's Court released a verdict, finding him guilty of "subversion of state power" and depriving him of political rights for five years. We understand that this prohibits him from holding any government-related jobs, voting and exercising his right to freedom of speech, protest or publication.
 
Reports state that his trial on December 26, 2018 followed repeated delays and that he had been held in pre-trial detention of more than three years, with no access to a lawyer or family visits. His wife, Li Wenzu, was prevented by the authorities from leaving her apartment ahead of the trial to bar her attendance. After Wang Quanzhang’s hearing in December 2018, the United Nations stated that there were "serious human rights concerns" about the way Wang Quanzhang’s case had been dealt with and called for Chinese authorities to "ensure his due process rights are respected".
 
State authorities have released little information about Wang Quanzhang’s well-being and have denied access to Li Wenzu and the seven lawyers she appointed to defend him, according to credible reports. The lawyers initially appointed to his case have been subjected to harassment and persecution, and, given this pressure, they have been forced to withdraw. In July 2017, Yu Wensheng, who had been Wang Quanzhang’s defence lawyer, was dismissed by his law firm in Beijing, due to the pressure exerted by the Judicial Bureau. Yu Wensheng was stripped of his license and then arrested in January 2019, and is now being investigated for "inciting subversion". 
 
The China Human Rights Lawyers Concern Group along with 30 organizations, including the Geneva Bar Association and the Bar Human Rights Committee of England and Wales released a joint statement on January 29, 2019 asking for the immediate acquittal of Wang Quanzhang. The statement stated that he has reportedly been tortured and suffered ill-treatment during his incommunicado detainment, also expressing “grave concern over lawyer Wang’s personal safety and health condition”.
 
The Law Society is seriously concerned by credible reports of Wang Quanzhang’s situation and urges the to comply with its obligations under international human rights laws, including the United Nations’ Basic Principles on the Role of Lawyers and Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
Article 8 of the Basic Principles on the Role of Lawyers states:
All arrested, detained or imprisoned persons shall be provided with adequate opportunities, time and facilities to be visited by and to communicate and consult with a lawyer, without delay, interception or censorship and in full confidentiality. Such consultations may be within sight, but not within the hearing, of law enforcement officials.
Article 16 states:
Governments shall ensure that lawyers (a) are able to perform all of their professional functions without intimidation, hindrance, harassment or improper interference; (b) are able to travel and to consult with their clients freely both within their own country and abroad; and (c) shall not suffer, or be threatened with, prosecution or administrative, economics or other sanctions for any action taken in accordance with recognized professional duties, standards and ethics.
Article 17 states:
Where the security of lawyers is threatened as a result of discharging their functions, they shall be adequately safeguarded by the authorities.
Moreover, Article 23 provides:
Lawyers like other citizens are entitled to freedom of expression, belief, association and assembly. In particular, they shall have the right to take part in public discussion of matters concerning the law, the administration of justice and the promotion and protection of human rights and to join or form local, national or international organizations and attend their meetings, without suffering professional restrictions by reason of their lawful action or their membership in a lawful organization.
Article 3 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights states:
Everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of person.
Article 5 states:
No one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.
Article 9 states:
No one shall be subjected to arbitrary arrest, detention or exile.
Article 10 states:
Everyone is entitled in full equality to a fair and public hearing by an independent and impartial tribunal, in the determination of his rights and obligations and of any criminal charge against him.
Article 11 states:
(1) Everyone charged with a penal offence has the right to be presumed innocent until proved guilty according to law in a public trial at which he has had all the guarantees necessary for his defence.
(2) No one shall be held guilty of any penal offence on account of any act or omission which did not constitute a penal offence, under national or international law, at the time when it was committed. Nor shall a heavier penalty be imposed than the one that was applicable at the time the penal offence was committed.
Moreover, Article 19 states:
Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.
The Law Society urges the Government of China to:

  1. immediately and unconditionally withdraw the charges against Wang Quanzhang;

  2. immediately and unconditionally vacate the conviction rendered against Wang Quanzhang;

  3. immediately and unconditionally release Wang Quanzhang and ensure that he is returned home;

  4. halt any further investigations against Wang Quanzhang;

  5. pending his release, ensure that Wang Quanzhang is detained in an official place of detention, is not subjected to torture or other ill-treatment, has regular, unrestricted access to her family, lawyers of hers, and medical care on request and as necessary;

  6. guarantee in all circumstances the physical and psychological integrity of Wang Quanzhang;

  7. immediately reinstate Yu Wensheng’s licence;

  8. ensure that Wang Quanzhang is able to communicate and consult in confidence with a lawyer;

  9. guarantee that adequate reparation will be provided to Wang Quanzhang if he is found to be a victim of human rights abuses;

  10. guarantee that there shall not be any inappropriate or unwarranted interference with the judicial process and with judicial decisions;

  11. ensure that all lawyers and judges in China are adequately safeguarded by the authorities such that they are able to carry out their professional duties and activities free from intimidation, hindrance, harassment, improper interference, the threat of criminalization or other human rights violations; and

  12. ensure in all circumstances respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms in accordance with international human rights standards and international instruments.