In July this year, human rights lawyer Wang Yu saw off her husband and their teenage son at the airport. They where to fly out to Australia were the 16-year-old boy was to attend school.
After returning home, Wang’s house power was cut off at around 3am according The Washington Post. The 44-year-old heard voices and then she sent a text to a group of fellow lawyers telling them that someone was trying to pick her door’s lock.
Later it was discovered that Wang had been arrested by police and that her husband and son had been detained at the airport. The boy was released but his passport was confiscated and he remains under constant surveillance. His parents remain in dentition and there whereabouts are unknown.
Wang and her husband – Bao Longjun who is also a rights lawyer – are among at least 277 lawyers, law firm staff, rights activists and their family members who have been targeted by the communist authorities in recent months.
They’ve been either arrested, detained or prevented from leaving China.
Held on suspicion of inciting ‘subversion of the government’, Wang is considered the most high profile lawyer arrested in the July crackdown. She is now one of the women featured in the U.S. Government’s FreeThe 20# campaign which draws attention to the plight of women political prisoners and other prisoners of concern.
One of Wang’s most prominent cases is featured in the below video when she defended the rights of six school girls who were allegedly raped by their school principle and a government official in a hotel.
“In sensitive cases like such as this, the authorities would warn lawyers not to intervene. They would also threaten the victim to not hire a lawyer, or not hire a specific lawyer,” Wang says.
“Cases like this are happening every minute and everywhere in China,” she says.
“Many people think about China: ‘China is rich, China is developing quickly, China has tall buildings, wide highways, fancy cars’,” Wang says earlier in the video which was filmed in 2013. “They don’t know that people are like animals that don’t have any basic rights,” she adds.
See the video here:
“Human rights law is a high-risk career. One might disappear, be sent to a mental hospital or a detention center… This could happen at any time,” she says.
Wang herself has already spent several years in prison on dubious charges.
“A commercial lawyer by training, Wang’s activism was sparked in 2008, when employees at a train station refused to let her board a train with her ticket,” said Samantha Power U.S. Representative to the United Nations at the launch of the FreeThe 20# campaign.
“After demanding the right to board, Wang was assaulted by several men and then – even though she was the one who had been beaten – convicted to two-and-a-half years in prison for what was called ‘intentional assault’,” said Power.
That miscarriage of justice, plus the torture and mistreatment she witnessed in prison, gave her the drive to advocate for human rights upon her release in 2011. Prior to going to jail she was a commercial lawyer.
Among those Wang represented were Ilham Tohti, a respected Uighur intellectual who was sentenced to life in prison, and the “Five Feminists” who were jailed earlier this year for organizing a public awareness campaign against sexual harassment.
Wang also helped persecuted Falun Gong practitioners but she wasn’t even allowed into the courthouses to provide support for them reported The Washington Post. An image of her and a colleague holding a banner outside one court read: “Lawyers demand the right to meet with clients” quickly circulated on Weibo, China’s version of Twitter.
Prior to her being detained, Wang was harassed, threatened, and smeared in the state-run media.
See a video on the fate of Gao Zhisheng, a respected dissident and lawyer, who also defended Falun Gong practitioners in China below: