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China rights lawyer barred from Beijing after prison: wife

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Beijing (AFP)

Chinese human rights lawyer Wang Quanzhang has not been allowed to reunite with his family in Beijing following his release from prison, his wife said Thursday, after Washington urged China to lift restrictions on his movements.

Detained in 2015 as part of a sweeping crackdown on hundreds of lawyers and rights activists, Wang was released earlier this month after serving a four-and-a-half year prison sentence.

Authorities then took him to a property in his hometown of Jinan, northeastern Shandong province, to undergo 14 days' coronavirus quarantine as a precaution, according to his wife, rights activist Li Wenzu.

But Thursday marks 19 days since his release, and he has not been able to return to Beijing and reunite with her and their son, Li said.

"I think they are scared that their mistreatment of Wang during his prison sentence may be fully revealed," Li told AFP.

"Regardless of their motives or plans, their restrictions on Wang's human rights and liberty are against the law. This should be condemned by all."

Numerous human rights observers have expressed concerns over alleged instances of torture experienced by Wang while under detention, and Li has previously told AFP that she is worried about the visible deterioration of her husband's health.

China continues to heavily suppress the movements of other released human rights lawyers, who activists say are placed under de facto house arrest, intimidated and surveilled around the clock.

Li stressed that while authorities forbade Wang to go to Beijing, he is allowed to make short trips out of his residential compound to buy groceries.

- 'No reason for this' -

Wang's mobile phone was finally returned to him on Monday, Li said, after it was confiscated by authorities shortly after his release.

He was allowed his first visitor on Monday, when the human rights lawyer Xie Yang travelled to see him, and his sister visited him on Tuesday, according to Li.

"If I went to Jinan myself, one result would be that I may be confined with him," said Li, adding that several relatives of the lawyers targeted in the 2015 crackdown have experienced similar issues.

A prominent lawyer who has defended political activists and victims of land seizures, Wang was convicted in 2019 for "subverting state power" in a closed-door trial.

Police in Jinan and Shandong province could not be reached for comment about Wang's current situation.

"There is no reason for this. It has been so many years already, (the authorities) have never given a proper reason for their lies and illegal conduct. If they don't want you to leave, then you will not be able to leave," said Li.

The case has attracted the attention of the United States, which on Monday urged China to lift all restrictions on Wang's movements and release other detained rights activists.

The State Department called on China to allow Wang's "freedom of movement, including the ability to join his family in Beijing".

China's foreign ministry responded Tuesday that Beijing "resolutely opposes" any country interfering in its internal affairs and judicial sovereignty.

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