Chinese authorities allowed a leading human rights lawyer to reunite with his family late Monday, ending more than four years of detention, most of it without communications with his friends and family.
Quanzhang Wang returned home to his wife and son in the capital, Beijing. They burst into tears as a friend recorded the reunion.
Wang had been released from jail earlier this month, following a four-and-a-half year sentence for “subversion” that the U.S. had called “unjust.”
Right before the long overdue reunion, Wang told VOA that he was very happy to be back in Beijing. He said, “I really want to hold my son. I was always imagining that moment when I was in jail. When they visited me in jail, we could only talk across the glass. Now I can finally hug my wife and son.”
He also told VOA that this time he’s not temporarily visiting but permanently back in Beijing.
Release delayed by quarantine
Wang was one of more than 200 lawyers and activists detained in a notorious crackdown on Chinese civil rights lawyers starting in July 2015. The government argued that rights lawyers had exploited some cases to enrich themselves.
Rights activists say the campaign was a hallmark of China’s President Xi Jinping’s tightening grip on power. Wang had defended political campaigners and victims of land seizures as well as followers of the Falun Gong movement, a banned spiritual group in China.
Prosecutors accused him of “subversion of state power.” During the trial, journalists and foreign diplomats were barred from the courthouse.
After serving his time, Wang was scheduled to be released April 5. However, instead he was sent to Jinan, a city that is 400 kilometers away from his home, for a mandatory quarantine required by the Chinese authorities. The authorities told him that he would be freed after the 14-day quarantine, but they made him wait a third week before allowing him to go back to Beijing Monday.
A day before his scheduled return, on April 26, his wife was hospitalized with an acute appendicitis. Wang tried to meet with her but was stopped on the way home by the police. He argued it’s his basic human right and responsibility to reunite with and take care of his family.
He told VOA that the authorities also prohibited him from talking with the press.
The U.S. State Department released a statement last week calling for the Chinese government to allow Wang’s “freedom of movement, including the ability to join his family in Beijing.”
The Chinese Foreign Ministry replied that the Chinese government objects to interference in its “domestic affairs” by any country.