The Story of Wang Quanzhang and His Wife’s March for Justice


Jessin Wang

Jaesup Sim ’19 shares his thoughts on the arrest of lawyer Wang Quanzhang, a defender of religious and spiritual minorities.

The situation regarding human rights in the People’s Republic of China today is very controversial. The Chinese government and its supporters claim that it protects against human rights abuses. However, other governments, such as the State Department of the U.S., in addition to international NGOs, such as Human Rights in China and Amnesty International, claim that authorities in China are responsible for human rights violations.

There are many groups today that protest against injustices they have suffered and continue to suffer at the hands of the Chinese Communist Party. These include political activists, such as the Umbrella Movement, which was a 2014 protest to try to preserve democracy and autonomy in Hong Kong, ethnic groups, such as Uyghurs and Tibetans, and Christian, Muslim, Buddhist, and Falun Gong religious and spiritual groups.

There is another group, however, that the Chinese government has made attempts to suppress, and that is those who are trying to defend others facing persecution in China. Numerous human rights lawyers have been arrested in a government crackdown on criticism over the course of the last few years.

The 709 Crackdown, a government operation against human rights lawyers in the People’s Republic of China, began in July 2015. During this operation, the Chinese Communist Party arrested some 300 human rights lawyers across the nation.

Among the arrested was lawyer Wang Quanzhang, a defender of religious and spiritual minorities, such as Chinese Christians and Falun Gong practitioners, who are facing persecution by the CCP. According to his family, he was detained for being “a threat to national security.”

Since being detained in August 2015, Wang’s family has not seen or heard from him for over two years. During his detention he was named one of the top three final candidates for the 2017 Human Rights Tulip award, an annual award given by the Dutch government to those who “promote human rights worldwide in innovative ways.”

A human rights lawyer from Hunan province, Wen Donghai, told New Tang Dynasty Television about the injustice of Wang’s continued detainment. “Even if he is guilty, he should not be detained for so long and should not be forbidden to meet with his lawyer,” said Wen. “This is abnormal. It is totally ignoring criminal lawsuit procedure.”

“With an overwhelming population, the Chinese government has succumbed to violate one’s basic rights as a human, freedom of speech and freedom of assembly.”

As reported in a story from Reuters, Wang’s continued detention prompted his wife, Li Wenzu, to start a march to try to press the police for answers in April 2018. She planned to walk sixty-two miles from their home in Beijing to Tianjin, where she believes Wang is being held prisoner.

Li kept this plan a secret before the start of the march, so as to prevent Chinese government authorities from stopping her. However, one week into her planned twelve-day march, authorities did stop Li. They took her back to Beijing and placed her under house arrest.

Others were saddened when they heard this story. “I don’t have that much knowledge about China’s policy, so I don’t want to make a quick judgement, however I think they should have proper reason to arrest and detain her,” said Jaesup Sim ’19. “With an overwhelming population, the Chinese government has succumbed to violate one’s basic rights as a human, freedom of speech and freedom of assembly. This instance with Wang Quanzhang and his wife’s case are instances of the Chinese government’s futile attempt to hush opposition. However, I feel it will cause more uproar,” said Paul Schaffino ’18.

Wang Quanzhang is just one of many human rights lawyers to be targeted by the CCP. Li Heping, who, like Wang, has defended Christian and Falun Gong spiritual groups, was taken in 2015 and held for nearly two years. According to the BBC, during his detention he was reportedly handcuffed and shackled for one month, during which he could not stand up straight the entire time.

Li was released in May 2017, but many others’ fates, like that of Wang, are still uncertain. People can only hope that there will soon be justice.