World

China human rights lawyer released after five years in jail

BEIJING: A leading Chinese human rights lawyer has been released from prison after almost five years behind bars, his wife said yesterday.

Mr Wang Quanzhang, 44, was detained in 2015 in a sweeping crackdown on more than 200 lawyers and government critics in China as President Xi Jinping tightened his grip on power.

He has yet to return home to his family in the Chinese capital, though, after he was escorted to a property he owns in eastern Shandong province for 14 days in quarantine as a precaution against the coronavirus, according to his wife Li Wenzu.

Ms Li told AFP from Beijing, where she lives with the couple's young son, that she feared Mr Wang would be placed under house arrest despite his release from prison, and would be subject to surveillance.

"I think (the authorities) have been lying to us step by step," she said.

"They used the pretext of the epidemic as an excuse to quarantine him for 14 days when he should have been able to return to his home in Beijing according to the relevant legal guidelines."

Calls to the prison went unanswered yesterday and Shandong's justice department did not respond to enquiries from AFP.

Police had forcibly evicted tenants from Mr Wang's property in the city of Jinan to make way for his return to Shandong, his wife added.

Ms Li said she believed his stay there was not out of choice.

"His speech is being restricted. He phoned me yesterday saying he would go to Jinan," she said.

"Is this what a rational person would do after being separated from their wife and child for almost five years?" - AFP

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