Wang Quanzhang trial who has been in prison since 2015

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Wang Quanzhang trial who has been in prison since 2015
Wang Quanzhang trial who has been in prison since 2015

Wang Quanzhang trial who has been in prison since 2015.

The trial of a prominent Chinese human rights lawyer took place Wednesday but was closed to the public because of “state secrets”, a northern Chinese court said.

Wang Quanzhang, 42, who defended political activists and victims of land seizures, disappeared in a 2015 sweep – known as the “709” crackdown – aimed at courtroom critics of Communist authorities.

Charged in January 2016 with alleged “subversion of state power”, Wang had been in legal limbo – detained without a trial date – until Monday, when his government-appointed lawyer finally contacted his wife with the court date.

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“The defendant… was tried in the first instance of the Tianjin Second Intermediate People’s Court today,” the court said in a statement.

“Due to the state secrets involved, the court decided not to open the trial to the public. The verdict, in this case, will be pronounced at a later date.”

The closed-door proceedings were conducted in a heavily-guarded courthouse in the northern city of Tianjin, with Wang’s wife prevented from attending the session and at least two activists detained for protesting outside the building.

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Wang’s wife, Li Wenzu, was on Tuesday placed under de facto house arrest with “more than 20” security personnel outside her apartment.

In an account posted on Twitter early Wednesday morning, a supporter Wang Qiaoling detailed how she and Li were barred from leaving a Beijing housing compound by groups of police officers for over an hour.

‘Another potential enemy’
“The authorities in cases like these see the defendant as their enemy and anyone close to them as either a potential tool to be manipulated… or as another potential enemy to be controlled,” Eva Pils, a professor specialising in human rights law at King’s College London, told AFP.

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“Placing Li Wenzu under house arrest would fall in that category.”

Just before 10:00 am (0200 GMT), AFP journalists witnessed Heilongjiang activist Yang Chunlin getting arrested after he protested outside the court in Tianjin, describing the situation as “fascist rule” and “absurd”.

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