White House Presses China for Release of Human Rights Lawyer

(CN) – The Trump administration pressed China to immediately release a high-profile human rights lawyer who was sentenced Monday to 4½ years in prison on the charge of subversion of state power on Monday.

Monday’s verdict comes more than three years after Wang Quanzhang was taken into custody during a massive crackdown on human rights lawyers and activists that resulted in more than 200 people being jailed. 

It is believed that Wang, a former member of the Fengrui law firm, was the last of those detained in the 2015 sweep to be tried.

“We are troubled that China has subjected Mr. Wang to a three-and-a-half-year period of pretrial detention, and has been held incommunicado, has been deprived of legal counsel of his choosing, and that his chosen lawyer has been subjected to reprisals,” said Robert Palladino, a State Department deputy spokesman, in a statement on Tuesday. 

Wang’s sentence, which a court in Tianjin announced in an online statement, derives from a closed-door trial held in the port city last month.

His wife Li Wenzu, along with diplomats and members of the press, were blocked from attending the trial, according to Amnesty International. 

Wang is widely known for handling cases for Christians and members of the Falun Gong, a spiritual movement that is heavily persecuted by Chinese authorities. 

“We call on China to release Mr. Wang immediately and allow him to reunite with his family,” Palladino said. “We remain concerned by the deteriorating situation for the rule of law, human rights, and fundamental freedoms in China, and continue to urge China to uphold its international human rights commitments and to respect the rule of law.”

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