Lu Xi and Jia Ao | Radio Free Asia
The wife of jailed human rights lawyer Wang Quanzhang has set out on another campaign to find her husband, starting on a Chinese lovers’festival, only to be shown video footage of Wang which she described as “very worrying.”
Li Wenzu met with authorities at the Linyi Prison in the eastern province of Shandong on Monday.
During the last of four conversations, she was shown a three-minute video of her husband–her first view of Wang since his detention nearly four years ago–which she said left her “stunned,” with her “heart bleeding.”
“I saw that Wang Quanzhang has obviously gotten much thinner and looks much older and greyer,” Li said in a statement via Twitter. “He seemed quite spaced out, and his responses were slow and hesitant.”
“When he speaks, his eyes flick from one place to another; when he finishes saying one thing, it takes him ages to stammer out the next sentences,” she said.
Li had continued to insist on a face-to-face meeting with Wang during four meetings with prison leaders, she said.
She said she had chosen the day for its significance for lovers, because “520” sounds similar to the Chinese for “I love you.”
“It’s May 20, 2019, and today is the 1,410th day that Wang Quanzhang has been missing,” Li told RFA. “It is also the first day of the second phase of our search for Wang Quanzhang.”
Wang recently began serving a four-and-a-half year jail term handed down on Jan. 28 by the Tianjin No. 2 Intermediate People’s Court, which found him guilty of “subversion of state power.”
The verdict and sentence followed repeated delays, resulting in Wang being held in pretrial detention for more than three years with no access to a lawyer or family visits.
Rights groups say there are concerns that Wang may have been subjected to torture or another mistreatment in detention, as he was detained incommunicado for such a long period of time, and that this may be the reason behind officials’ insistence on secrecy.
During that time, the authorities failed to provide a proper account of Wang’s prolonged detention to the public, including Wang’s family and family-appointed defense lawyers.
Letters from prison
Since his transfer to Linyi Prison in the eastern province of Shandong, Li has received letters purportedly from Wang telling her not to try to visit him because of “renovations” at the prison reception center.
So Li took matters into her own hands, continuing her campaign to see her husband by traveling uninvited to the prison gates.
“We’re outside the gates of the Linyi Prison Visitor Center right now,” Li said in a video posted to her Twitter account. “The door to the visitor center is shut fast, and there’s a notice saying that it’s undergoing an upgrade and that it’s temporarily closed for visiting purposes.”
She said a couple of special services police officers had been guarding the building and told her to speak to staff in the main lobby of the prison to fill out an application for a visit.
“Shortly after that, they got a phone call, and then both special police officers left pretty quickly,” Li said. She then took their advice and continued to request a meeting with Wang.
Prison authorities told her she should come back on June 20, well after the politically sensitive 30th anniversary of the Tiananmen Massacre. They also said she could request a video link-up with Wang before that date.
U.S.-based legal scholar Chen Guangcheng, who was held in the same prison during his jail term, said the accommodation for newly arrived prisoners is located in two blocks on the other side of the north wall, not far from the street.
“When I first got there, I would hear the food hawkers on the other side of the wall shouting out ‘Rice dumplings! Tea-soaked eggs! Peanut milk!’ every morning,” Chen wrote in a recent commentary for RFA’s Mandarin Service.
“The visitor room is located in the administrative block on the street outside the prison wall, some 30 meters away,” he said. “If someone stood there and yelled Wang Quanzhang’s name, he would definitely be able to hear it, especially between 5.00 and 6.00 a.m.”
Chen called on the prison guards to be slow to follow orders to mistreat Wang.
“Not acting on behalf of evil is good, in the same way, that not acting on behalf of good is evil,” Chen wrote. “The best good you can do for human rights defenders is to refuse to carry out evil deeds towards them.”