The Trump administration recently expressed concerns over the Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP) sentencing of a human rights lawyer who is well-known for defending oppressed faith believers in China.
In a statement released Jan. 29 the U.S. State Department expressed its “deep concern” over the sentencing of Wang Quanzhang to a four-and-a-half-year prison term on Jan. 28.
The CCP must “release Mr. Wang immediately and allow him to reunite with his family,” said Robert Palladino, a State Department deputy spokesman in the statement on Tuesday.
“We are troubled that China has subjected Mr. Wang to a three-and-a-half-year period of pretrial detention, has been held incommunicado, has been deprived of legal counsel of his choosing, and that his chosen lawyer has been subjected to reprisals,” quoted Palladino.
Wang, a human rights lawyer from Shandong Province, is known for defending Chinese citizens who are repressed by the CCP, including Christians, Uighur Muslims, and members of Falun Gong, a spiritual meditation discipline.
Wang was arrested by the CCP, in August 2015 as part of a crackdown on 100 human rights lawyers, known as the 709 Campaign. He was held in isolation for three years before his trial over the Christmas holiday, on Dec. 26, 2018.
He was sentenced on Jan. 28, 2019, on the charge of “subverting state power,” an instrument the CCP uses to blast dissidents and human rights activists in China.
His case continued “China’s trend of prosecuting high-profile government critics around Christmas, a time when many Western embassies’ human rights officers and foreign journalists are out of the country,” according to the Wall Street Journal.
“Today’s verdict is a gross injustice. It’s outrageous that Wang Quanzhang is being punished for peacefully standing up for human rights in China,” commented Doriane Lau, China researcher at Amnesty International.
Wang’s wife, Li Wenzu, had her head shaved last month in protest of husband’s detention. “I can go without hair, but this country cannot be without law,” Li said to The Guardian.
“My husband is innocent. He was illegally arrested and detained for three and a half years. Throughout this time, the authorities have continued to break the law, forbidding lawyers from seeing him, and cutting him off from all communication. They have deprived him of his rights.”
In April 2018, Li attempted to walk more than 100 kilometers (62 miles) from Beijing to Tianjin, where she believed her husband was being held. Authorities in Tianjin broke up her march, detained her and forced her to go back to Beijing, the RFA reported.
“Wang was among the first individuals detained” under the 709 Campaign and “the last to be tried,” Palladino noted. “We remain concerned by the deteriorating situation for the rule of law, human rights, and fundamental freedoms in China, and continue to urge China to uphold its international human rights commitments and to respect the rule of law.”
President Donald Trump, who has been implementing a wide range of policies on the CCP, has signaled that his administration is willing to go further when it comes to human rights and religious freedom in China.