Transferred 1000 km from family, medical care needed
Yu Wensheng is a prominent human rights lawyer in Beijing. He represented a number of high-profile human rights cases, including Falun Gong practitioners and fellow human rights lawyer Wang Quanzhang, who was detained and charged with “subverting state power” during the mass crackdown on lawyers and activists starting in July 2015.
Previously detained at the Xuzhou City Detention Centre, Yu Wensheng was transferred to Nanjiing Prison in Jiangsu Province, which is about 1000km away from Beijing. Yu’s wife, Xu Yan, has expressed her deep disappointment with the transfer, which makes visits much more difficult.
On 17 June 2020, Yu was sentenced to four years’ imprisonment and deprivation of political rights for three years in a secret trial. Shortly after Yu’s sentencing, an appeal to the Jiangsu Provincial People’s High Court was filed. On 27 December 2020, Yu’s lawyers received the decision in writing from Jiangsu Provincial People’s High Court that Yu’s appeal was rejected, and the court upheld the original sentencing. According to the judgement, Yu is scheduled to be released on 1 March 2022.
When Yu was granted the first meeting with his lawyer in August 2020, after more than 18 months in detention, he shared that he had been sprayed with pepper spray water and was at times required to sit on a metal chair for an extended period of time, until he partially lost consciousness. Yu also said that he was often not given enough food and that he suffered heatstroke in the summer and was cold in the winter.
Yu’s family and friends believe that his conviction is related to an open letter in which he criticized President Xi Jinping as ill-suited to lead China due to his strengthening “totalitarian” rule over the country.
Yu Wensheng is the winner of the 2021 Martin Ennals Award, an annual prize for human rights defenders that was announced on 11 February 2021. The winner and the finalists are selected by a jury of 10 of the world’s leading human rights NGOs. The award provides protection and support human rights defenders who are at risk. His wife shared this news with him, and Yu sincerely appreciates the work that the international community have done and grateful that he is the winner of the 2021 Martin Ennals Award.
Yu Wensheng’s wife, Xu Yan, has been tirelessly fighting for the release of her husband in the past three years. Xu made numerous attempts to visit her husband, who has been detained 800km away from their home in Beijing. Xu Yan has been under constant surveillance and harassment by the authorities since she started to advocate for her husband. She has been summoned, detained and banned from travelling.
Activists and human rights defenders in China continue to be systematically subjected to monitoring, harassment, intimidation, arrest and detention.