On March 1st, Chinese lawyer Yu Wensheng must be fully free
In a joint statement, Lawyers for Lawyers and nine human rights organizations urge the Chinese government to ensure lawyer Yu Wensheng is able to leave Nanjing Prison and freely reunite with his family in Beijing on 1 March 2022.
A Laureate of the 2021 Martin Ennals Award, Yu Wensheng is a leading figure among human rights lawyers in China. He has fearlessly taken on a number of sensitive cases and issues, joining litigations on air pollution advocating for a constitutional government.
For this, the authorities revoked his legal license on 16 January, 2018. Three days later, he was forcibly disappeared, a day after publishing an open letter calling for constitutional reform. He was put on trial in secret on 9 May 2019, but his wife, Xu Yan, was only informed of his four-years jail sentence in June 2020.
Yu Wensheng is expected to leave prison in Nanjing on 1 March 2022, after being detained for 50 months, which should mark the end of his sentence for ‘inciting subversion of State power’. As early as May 2019, UN experts concluded his detention was arbitrary and called on the government to release him. Ever since, a number of government and UN experts have called for his release.
The signatory organisations express grave concern that Yu Wensheng may be put under a de facto home arrest, severely restricted in his movements and communication, and unable to reunite with his family in Beijing.
Human rights lawyers have endured such restrictions upon leaving prison on grounds of a supplemental sentence of ‘deprivation of political rights’, in a phenomenon known as ‘non-release release’. In September 2019, UN experts condemned the use of this practice against lawyer Jiang Tianyong as ‘gratuitously punitive and legally unjustified’.
Lawyers for Lawyers and all signatory organisations urge the Chinese authorities to:
- Ensure that Yu Wensheng is able to reunite with his family in Beijing on 1 March, to exercise his rights to move and communicate freely, and that he is not subjected to surveillance and harassment. He must also be able to resume his legal work without restrictions;
- Put an end to the surveillance and harassment of Yu Wensheng’s family;
- Guarantee in all circumstances that all lawyers in China, including human rights lawyers, are able to carry out their legitimate professional duties without fear of reprisals and free of restrictions.
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