RFA Cantonese service
This article was first published in China Change website on April 28, 2017
Late Friday, evening time Beijing, Wang Qiaoling and Li Wenzu issued the following video statement. China Change offers our audience a translation:
Statement by Wang Qiaoling and Li Wenzu
Wang Qiaoling: This morning at 11:00 a.m. I was walking out the first floor entrance of our apartment building with my daughter when I found myself surrounded by a large group of state security agents. Among them were Beijing state security agents, Tianjin state security agents, chief of the Tianjin Jiaguasi (挂甲寺) police station, and the neighborhood property management people. As they closed in on me, the state security officers demanded that we discuss Li Heping’s case. I thought it was a standard attempt to threaten us and asked them to present their ID badges. They refused. As we were arguing and haggling over this point, they told me that Li Heping had already been given a suspended sentence. I was extremely shocked. This meant that Li Heping had already been tried in secret.
[The paper says: Why try him in secret?]
[709 case, the 659th day]
As far as I know, in Li Heping’s ten year career as a lawyer he has opposed torture, defended the rights of religious believers, and appealed on behalf of those suffering injustice. Everything he has done can be discussed openly, and it is all transparent and upright.
[The paper says: My husband Heping is innocent and aboveboard.]
My husband Li Heping was tried and judged in secret on April 25, and this morning the sentence was announced. At the moment he was being sentenced, the lawyer appointed to him by the authorities, Wen Zhisheng, was instead at my house with state security agents, waiting since the early morning for me to appear. At one point during all this he dashed up to me and tried to snatch away my cell phone, and also tried to hit me, until he was dragged away. This Wen Zhisheng is more of a state security agent than the agents themselves — he’s a volunteer security agent, effectively. The conduct of this lawyer — working with the authorities to frame his colleagues — is utterly shameless.
The state security agents said that the result — three years imprisonment, suspended for four years — is something that everyone worked hard to achieve, and is to the delight and satisfaction of all. They told me to immediately pack up the kids so they could take us all to see Li Heping.
Screw your delight and satisfaction. For Li Heping, who’s now a political offender, a three year sentence with a four year probation means that his personal freedom will be restricted for seven years. Over the last two years I’ve seen so many kind-hearted family members of 709 lawyers who’ve been hoodwinked by state security agents and taken to Tianjin — and then the whole family is cut off from the outside world. What on earth happened to them? We have no way of knowing.
Today, many journalists asked me: How do you feel about Li Heping gaining freedom? I told them that Li Heping is not free. According to Chinese law, Li Heping was given a suspended sentence, so he should be at home with us right now. But instead of that, a big gang of state security agents came to our door and tried to take me and my daughter to Tianjin. This shows that Li Heping is still being locked up by the authorities — simply under different auspices.
Li Wenzu: Today, state security told me very explicitly that Wang Quanzhang would be next. They told me to be a bit more obedient and Wang Quanzhang might be able to get a suspended sentence too.
Wang Qiaoling: Screw your suspended sentence.
Li Wenzu: Exactly.
Li Wenzu: For 659 days, we look forward to their return each every day, hoping for their true freedom.
Wang Qiaoling: So, the 709 cases are far from coming to an end. We still have a very long road ahead.
After 22 months in captivity, Li Heping, one of the remaining “709” human rights lawyers ensnared in the mass arrests beginning July 9, 2015, stood secret trial on April 25 in Tianjin. Three days later on Friday April 28, his wife Wang Qiaoling was told that Li was given a three-year prison sentence with a four-year probation. Wang firmly maintains that Li is innocent, and said the sentence is absurd.
Wang Qiaoling said that state security agents in Tianjin and Beijing, together with the officially-designated lawyer Wen Zhisheng — dozens of people in all — traveled to Wang Qiaoling’s home in the Daxing district of Beijing, informing her that Li Heping had been given a suspended sentence. They said that they were prepared to take her and the couple’s young daughter to Tianjin to “reunite” with Li. Wang Qiaoling immediately rejected the invitation.
Wang Qiaoling told Radio Free Asia that the state security agents were trying to bring her to Tianjin in order to put them under house arrest and make sure they can’t speak to the press.
“The scene outside our apartment was a spectacle,” Wang said. “Dozens of them had come just to tell me this news: first, that Li Heping had been given a three year sentence, with a four-year probation; and second, that I absolutely had to read a letter Li Heping had written, and speak to him on the phone.”
In a video from the scene, Li’s officially-assigned lawyer was seen to brandish this letter, trying to give it to Wang.
She rejected all of it. “They’ve lied far too many times already,” she said.” “They told me that I should be happy with this outcome, because ‘your husband can come home.’ You lock someone up and torture them for nearly two years, and now you come and tell me that this is the best outcome? Why didn’t the family even know about the trial? If the sentence was pronounced today in the court in Tianjin, why was his lawyer there? You come here trying to make me buy this story, but all you want to really do is make sure our whole family is under house arrest and that Li Heping stays in captivity, and that I stay silent.”
While Wang Qiaoling was squaring off with the security police — led by Sun Di, a senior security officer at Beijing Public Security Bureau and a human rights perpetrator who took part in Gao Zhisheng’s torture, and was involved in the cases of many dissidents, such as those of Hu Jia and Ai Weiwei — she suddenly received a telephone call from a Tianjin phone number. It was Li Heping speaking over a noisy background. He said that it’s inconvenient to speak on the phone, and that he wanted Wang to come to Tianjin to be with him. Wang, however, demanded that Li instead be allowed to come home. “It’s not that I don’t miss you,” she told him. “If I go, we will all lose our freedom.”
Human rights lawyers closely watching the latest developments think that the goal of the authorities was obvious: to bring Wang Qiaoling to Tianjin and put her under house arrest. This would also be a way of dismantling the 709 family members who have banded together to support each other. They believe that this, if achieved, will pave the way for the trial of Wang Quanzhang.
Much earlier on in the 709 saga, the families of Zhao Wei (赵威, Li Heping’s legal assistant) and Ren Quanniu (任全牛) were given the opportunity to “reunite,” but in the end got trapped under house arrest.
Meanwhile, the Tianjin 2nd Intermediate Court published a message to its official Weibo channel saying that the April 25 trial was closed because Li Heping’s case relates to state secrets, that Li’s sentence was announced on the morning of April 28, and that he was guilty of “subversion of state power” and would be sentenced to prison for three years with a four-year probation. According to the announcement, Li Heping said he would not appeal; some members of the public were able to observe the sentencing.
The news has also been published by the official media Global Times, as well as to the websites of every major news portal.
Wang Qiaoling told RFA that she understands any decision her husband might make after being jailed and put through an ordeal for nearly two years. She also wishes he would come home. But the judgement against him was simply preposterous.
Wang Qiaoling: “Just earlier someone asked me: ‘Do you think this is a bit lighter than what happened last August?’ I’ll speak from my heart. My husband is innocent. What we want is for him to be released as innocent so he can come home. Only then would it be clear that the rule of law actually governs China. You’ve gone and turned an innocent man into a criminal, and then suspended the sentence so it seems really humanitarian. But this is absurd. I don’t acknowledge it, and I don’t recognize it.”
Security police on Friday also sought to “persuade” Li Wenzu, wife of Wang Quanzhang, another 709 lawyer still in custody. They said that Wang’s case is almost completed, and that Li should maintain a calm and restrained attitude.
Hunan attorney Wen Donghai (文东海) represented Wang Yu (王宇) before her “release” and had made many trips to Tianjin. Drawing from his experience and reflection, he told RFA that the 709 case has been playing out for two years now, and the official attempt to concoct criminal charges against the lawyers has failed. Now, under constant international pressure, the authorities are trying to quickly wrap things up and save face.
“If they still want to save a bit of face,” he said, “they should immediately release Xie Yang, Wang Quanzhang, Jiang Tianyong, and Wu Gan. This is the best option. They’re not only innocent of any crimes, but the ones who’ve committed crimes are in the public security organs, the procuracy, and the courts. These sentences simply bring shame to the authorities themselves, and will deal even more damage to their legitimacy.”