Wang Quanzhang on the verge of being released – but may not regain his freedom
3 April 2020

Wang Quanzhang on the verge of being released – but may not regain his freedom


The prominent Chinese human rights lawyer Wang Quanzhang is expected to be released from prison on 5 April 2020. It remains to be seen whether Mr. Wang is allowed to travel to Beijing to reunite with his family. In a joint statement, Lawyers for Lawyers together with many other organizations, urges the Chinese authorities to ensure Wang Quanzhang’s personal freedom after his release.

Wang Quanzhang is a prominent human rights lawyer, who disappeared in the aftermath of the 709 Crackdown in July 2015. After his disappearance, Wang Quanzhang was formally arrested on 8 January 2016 for the alleged crime of ‘subverting state power’. Mr. Wang was formally indicted on 14 February 2017, and he was only tried behind closed doors on 26 December 2018. On 28 January 2019, the Tianjin Municipal Court found Wang Quanzhang guilty of ‘subversion of state power’ and sentenced him to four and a half years in prison and a five years’ deprivation of his political rights.

Over the last years, Lawyers for Lawyers has repeatedly addressed its concerns about Wang Quanzhang’s situation. Since his disappearance in 2015, Lawyers for Lawyers has called upon the Chinese authorities to restore Mr. Wang’s freedom. As part of the #FreeTheLawyers Campaign, Lawyers for Lawyers asked special attention for Mr. Wang’s situation.

Now that Mr. Wang is about to be released from prison, however, Lawyers for Lawyers has serious concerns that the release of Wang Quanzhang will not be unconditional. It is very likely that he will be forced to go to Jinan, Shandong, instead of reuniting with his family in Beijing. Jiang Tianyong, a human rights lawyer who was released after a two-year jail term in February 2019, states that, according to Chinese law, individuals released from prison should be sent to their normal residential address, which therefore should grant Mr. Wang the right to return to Beijing.

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights guarantees all individuals the “freedom of movement and residence within the borders of [China].” The universal guarantee of freedom of movement must be interpreted and applied in accordance with the determinations of the UN Human Rights Committee. In General Comment No. 27, the Committee has determined that any restrictions of the right to freedom of movement must be:

1/ provided by law; and,
2/ reasonably necessary to protect national security, public order or morals; and,
3/ proportionate to its purpose; and,
4/ consistent with other recognized rights; and,
5/ temporary.

Restricting Mr. Wang’s freedom to choose his own place of residence would therefore lack any legal justification.

In a joint statement, Lawyers for Lawyers together with many other organizations, urges the Chinese government to adhere to Article 37 of the Constitution of the People’s Republic of China as well as Articles 3 and 13 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, to ensure Wang Quanzhang’s personal freedom after his release, and to refrain from putting him under any form of house arrest, surveillance, or any other form of control over his personal freedom. Read the statement here in English, and here in Chinese.

Update (5 April)

It has been reported that Mr. Wang has yet to return home to meet his family in Beijing after being released from prison on 5 April 2020.. Mr. Wang was escorted to a property he owns in Jinan. He has to remain in quarantine for 14 days as a precaution against the coronavirus, according to his wife Li Wenzu. Li Wenzu fears that the Chinese authorities are using the corona crisis as an excuse to hold Mr. Wang under de facto house arrest indefinitely.

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