Washington Post: A ‘confession’ that reveals plenty about China

Monday, August 8, 2016

The Washington Post
By Editorial Board August 7 at 7:40 PM

■ A CHINESE human rights lawyer held incommunicado for more than a year has “confessed” to her crimes and been “released” on bail — except the confession seems coerced, and no one has seen Wang Yu since her supposed release.

Last summer, the Chinese government began a crackdown on what it called a “well-organized criminal gang.” That gang was really a group of lawyers who sought to hold the government to its own legal standards by exposing human rights violations, case by case. Since then, more than 300 advocates and family members have been summoned, questioned or detained in investigations of subversion of state power. At least 16 remain in custody. Ms. Wang was — and may still be — one of them. Her husband is also in detention, and her son is reportedly under house arrest in Inner Mongolia.

Ms. Wang has a remarkable record. Yet according to her statement last week, she disavows all of it. Her crusades for equal justice — particularly for women and girls — were merely the product of manipulation from “foreign forces” to “smear the party and attack the Chinese government.” Ms. Wang “won’t acknowledge, won’t recognize and won’t accept” an international human rights award she was given.

Civil rights lawyer Wang Yu, shown in April 2015, was
arrested last year in China.
(Mark Schiefelbein/Associated Press)
The script is tried and true. As The Post’s Emily Rauhala reported, China has said the same thing — using the same words — about the recent ruling on the South China Sea. In another so-called confession in January, a Hong Kong seller of “banned” books told a bizarre tale of a hit-and-run accident whose consequences he wished to face in China. He also renounced his ties to Sweden, saying much like Ms. Wang that “deep down I think of myself as Chinese.”

Ms. Wang has not been heard from since her statement, even though the Chinese government claims she has been set free on bail. The same is true of legal assistant Zhao Wei, who was supposed to be released last month after posting a confession online. Several of Ms. Wang’s colleagues are also in detention. A court began hearing their case last week, but the trial is open only to select members of the media. Two have been sentenced; one received seven years in prison while the other got a three-year suspended sentence. When the wives of other detainees traveled to Tianjin to seek information, they were placed under house arrest.

For years, Ms. Wang has been publicly committed to questioning the state. Now, in a chilling testament to Chinese tyranny, she has publicly condemned her own questions. Ten years ago, these lawyers could rarely get a case into court. Five years ago, some were disbarred. Today, they face trials far from free or fair — and the defense of human dignity is treated as treason.

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