US Concerned as Persecuted Chinese Rights Lawyer Wang Yu Misses 'Woman of Courage' Video Award Ceremony
Prominent Chinese rights lawyer Wang Yu was among dozens of women honored by the US State Department on International Women's Day 2021.
UPDATED at 2:05 p.m. EST 2021-03-08
Chinese human rights lawyer Wang Yu, one of 14 women from around the world honored by the U.S. as an International Woman of Courage (IWOC), did not appear for the on-line award ceremony Monday and has been out of touch for two days, raising concerns, said Secretary of State Antony Blinken.
"She has represented cases involving abused children, ethnic minorities, women, and religious adherents, and her work has brought government pressure on her through today," Blinken said at IWOC award ceremony.
"We have not been in regular communication over the past two days. We’re concerned because we know that she wanted to attend today’s ceremony. We’ll be following up and, if necessary, speaking out on her case," he added.
An activist close to Wang said she had tweeted plans to leave the southern city of Guangzhou on Saturday, but was held up for a COVID-19 check. Around noon on Sunday, however, she and her husband, Bao Longjun, were apprehended and taken away by police from Tianjin. Their whereabout is not known yet.
The friend confirmed that Wang knew about the State Department ceremony and wanted to attend.
The State Department had earlier noted on its website that Wang had been "one of the country’s most prominent human rights lawyers until her arrest and imprisonment following China’s nationwide persecution of lawyers and rights advocates during the [July 2015] crackdown" on human rights lawyers that saw hundreds rounded up and many later jailed or stripped of their licenses to practice.
"She had taken on multiple politically sensitive cases, representing activists, scholars, Falun Gong practitioners, farmers, and petitioners in cases involving a wide array of issues, including women’s and children’s rights, and the rights to religion, freedom of expression, assembly, and association," it said.
"She is now under an exit ban and has been harassed, threatened, searched, and physically assaulted by police since she began to take on rights abuse cases in 2011."
Despite ongoing harassment from the ruling Chinese Communist Party (CCP), Wang has continued to use her Twitter account to speak out on behalf of fellow attorneys and rights activists targeted by the authorities for their rights advocacy.
In late February, she retweeted a post from Xu Yan, wife of jailed rights lawyer Yu Wensheng, saying that her husband has yet to receive treatment for loss of function in his right hand and for the loss of teeth while in jail.
"The court ... did not consider the four complaints [about Yu's treatment in jail] and went right ahead and ruled to uphold the original judgement," Xu wrote in the tweet.
"The Jiangsu Higher People's Court wouldn't allow the defense attorney to review the case files."
'Exceptional courage, leadership'
The IWOC award recognizes women from around the world who have demonstrated "exceptional courage and leadership in advocating for peace, justice, human rights, gender equality, and women’s empowerment," often at great personal cost.
"These women made an extraordinary choice: to persist. To demand justice," First Lady Jill Biden told the awards ceremony, which was livestreamed on YouTube on Monday.
"To believe that, despite the obstacles and fear that they faced, that there is a future worth fighting for," Biden said.
Wang and her legal activist husband Bao Longjun were detained in a massive nationwide crackdown on rights lawyers and activists in July 2015.
Their son Bao Zhuoxuan, also known by his nickname Bao Mengmeng, was just 16 when his passport was confiscated in the wake of his parents' arrest on the night of July 9, 2015 at the start of a nationwide police operation targeting the legal profession that became know as the "709 crackdown."
He had planned to complete his high school education overseas.
The teenager later tried to escape across the border from the southwestern Chinese province of Yunnan into northern Myanmar with a couple of fellow activists posing as tourists, but was caught and the activists who tried to help him detained.
He eventually arrived in Australia to complete his studies in January 2018.
Reported by Han Qing for RFA's Mandarin Service. Translated and edited by Luisetta Mudie.