Beijing— Beijing police seized human rights lawyer Yu Wensheng on Friday as he was accompanying his son to school.
According to the Los Angeles Times, his arrest came after posted an online letter critiquing China’s lack of open presidential elections, and his wife believes it was what prompted authorities to take him into custody.
Radio Free Asia said Beijing authorities confirmed they are holding him under criminal detention.
Just days earlier, the Beijing Municipal Justice Bureau disbarred Yu, saying he had not been employed by a firm for more than six months. However, Yu maintains that he sought employment at several such locations, but the authorities threatened each company, rendering him unable to secure a position.
When asked if he would appeal for his license, Yu responded that it’s pointless, saying rule of law is only a slogan in China. However, because the government revoked his license instead of suspending it, he may apply for another one next year, even though he believes his chances of authorities allowing him to pass the examination are not that great.
In the meantime, Yu was looking forward to the opportunity to partake in human rights work. He said, “I will certainly do some human rights work in the future … I am sure that I will have a lot of things to do. I think that I will do more in the future than when I was a lawyer.”
Yu also said that government personnel persecuted him because he represented Wang Quanzhang, the only human rights lawyer still imprisoned after a nationwide crackdown on the practice in July 2015. Wang is still missing, and his wife, Li Wenzu, advocates for him relentlessly while raising their young son.
Additionally, Yu represented plaintiffs who sued the government and called for a mayor to resign in a smog-related case. He was also detained and tortured for 99 days when authorities suspected he supported the Occupy Central movement, a campaign in Hong Kong that occurred in 2014 in response to a restrictive decision regarding Hong Kong electoral system.
Yu’s license revocation comes after a Department of Justice branch in China’s southern Yunnan province suspended the certification of two other lawyers, Wang Longde and Wang Ligan, after they withdrew from China’s bar association. Wang Ligan maintains that the association violated China’s Constitution, which contradicted his responsibility to uphold the rights it grants Chinese citizens. Both lawyers plan to appeal.
“It can go both ways,” Wang Ligan said. “I’m both disappointed and not disappointed since the [people who revoked their licenses] are a bunch of bad people. I’m not surprised at all … If the administrative reconsideration does not go well, we’ll apply for administrative litigation.”
Yunnan’s provincial justice department held a hearing regarding the revocation on Dec. 17, and many human rights lawyers and Chinese citizens from different parts of the country showed up to support them, but most of them were denied entrance as police surrounded the court.