Chinese human rights lawyer Yu Wensheng was arrested in Beijing in 2018 and tried secretly by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP). He was sentenced to 4 years in prison on charges of “inciting state subversion.”

According to his wife, Wensheng’s state of health is deplorable, and he appears to have been tortured. 

Yu Wensheng is a renowned lawyer who was recently nominated for the Martin Ennals Award, one of the leading awards in human rights cases. Wensheng is in detention on state subversion charges for denouncing irregularities in the CCP and calling for democratic elections. 

According to last year’s South China Morning Post, the lawyer was arrested in Beijing in Jan. 2018 in front of his youngest son, a few hours after writing an open letter calling for constitutional reforms, including free and transparent elections. 

China has witnessed severe repression of civil and democratic liberties since the CCP took power, eliminating ancient and ancestral cultural traditions. President Xi Jinping took control in 2012 and dashed any hope of improvement.

Complaints from detained lawyers and human rights activists did not stop appearing, nor did the persecution of religious minorities or dissidents by the CCP. Such is the case with Falun Gong practitioners’ fierce persecution, who are being illegally arrested, held in forced labor centers, and subjected to the illegal business of organ harvesting for profit. 

In a dialogue with the South China Morning Post, Xu Yan, the lawyer’s wife, said of Yu Wensheng that “his physical condition is deplorable. His right hand is deformed and shakes so much that he cannot write.”

Wensheng began to be harassed and persecuted by the CCP before his arrest. He was already known to be involved in some high profile rights cases, including the defense of fellow lawyer Wang Quanzhang, who was among 300 legal professionals and activists arrested in a July 2015 offensive.

As part of the persecution, Wensheng is suffering, Lu Siwei, his defense lawyer, had his legal license revoked last week when it emerged that he was also handling other sensitive human rights cases, further complicating Wensheng’s situation.

Siwei had planned to file another appeal against Wensheng’s sentence, said Xu Yan, the defendant’s wife, after his first appeal was rejected earlier this month.

In the three years that Wensheng has been detained, he has been unable to contact his wife. Only last week, they were allowed to have a 25-minute video conference where she could corroborate her husband’s deplorable state of health. 

Wensheng was missing four teeth and could not chew his food properly, Yan said, adding that there was no heating in the detention center.

“These are very basic human needs that are not being respected,” she said, adding that Wensheng occasionally looked in another direction before responding, suggesting that it was because there were police in the room and out of camera range.

“There are probably many things you cannot say at this point. We will only know the full extent of what you experienced after you are released,” Yan said.

The Trump administration was a great defender of human rights and condemned with facts authoritarian regimes that put them at risk, as is the case with the CCP. 

On July 8, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo called on the CCP to meet its “international human rights obligations” amidst the commemoration of the fifth anniversary of the July 9 National Offensive in which it launched a crackdown on hundreds of lawyers and human rights activists.

Pompeo emphasized that even though five years have passed, the CCP’s thirst for absolute control has not diminished. He points out that on the contrary, it remains just as strong, and “this can be seen in the secret trial against lawyer Yu Wensheng, who defends victims of repression in 2015.”