Wife of jailed China rights lawyer pleads to see him

Beijing (AFP) –


The wife of jailed Chinese rights lawyer Wang Quanzhang Friday pleaded to be allowed to see him just once nearly four years after he disappeared during a crackdown on lawyers and activists.

Wang, 42, was sentenced to four-and-a-half years in prison in January following a December trial that took place behind closed doors.

A prominent lawyer who defended political activists and victims of land seizures, Wang disappeared in a sweep aimed at courtroom critics of Communist authorities known as the "709" clampdown because the arrests started on July 9, 2015.

Charged in January 2016 with "subversion of state power", Wang was the last of more than 200 lawyers and activists arrested in the crackdown to be tried or released.

"My concern is that from the time he was arrested, no one has seen Wang Quanzhang, not even the lawyers that we hired," his wife Li Wenzu told AFP.

"All I want is to see him one time to know that he is still alive," she said.

Wang was transferred on Monday from detention in the northern city of Tianjin to Linyi jail in the eastern province of Shandong, according to a letter from prison authorities handed to his sister, Li said.

The notice was accompanied by a memo which said prison facilities were being upgraded so no visits were allowed, Li said.

Li, who has actively protested against her husband's detention, has repeatedly demanded proof of life from the authorities.

She was placed under de facto house arrest the day before Wang's December 26 trial to prevent her from attending.

Earlier that month, before Wang's court date was announced, Li and three supporters shaved their heads and tried to submit a petition to a Beijing court protesting against his detention.

Beijing has stepped up its crackdown on civil society since President Xi Jinping took power in 2012, tightening restrictions on freedom of speech and detaining hundreds of activists and lawyers.