The wife of detained Chinese rights lawyer Wang Quanzhang, who has been held incommunicado without trial since 2015, has met with foreign diplomats together with Wang Qiaoling, wife of rights lawyer Li Heping, RFA has learned.
"Yesterday morning, I and Wang Qiaoling met with diplomats in charge of human rights from ... the U.K., U.S., Germany, the E.U., Switzerland and Austria," Wang's wife Li Wenzu told RFA on Thursday.
"Wang Quanzhang has been detained for three-and-a-half years, and I still know nothing about the trial," she said. "I am starting to get very worried and anxious, because there has been no new information during the past couple of weeks."
Li said the conversation had largely focused on her message to the ruling Chinese Communist Party.
"I wanted them to pass on a very clear demand from me to the Chinese government, that the Tianjin No. 2 Intermediate People's Court issue its verdict immediately," she said.
"The [trial] ended ... so the fact that they still haven't issued a verdict indicates that they want to drag things out still longer, until everyone has forgotten about the whole thing," Li said.
"They will then deal with the case when nobody is thinking about it any more," she said.
Li said state security police had issued the families of rights lawyers and activists detained in a nationwide crackdown since July 2015 with the same warning; not to meet with foreign diplomats.
"The state security police wants the relatives to abide by four prohibitions, the most important of which was that we shouldn't meet with diplomats," she said. "But our situation would be far worse if it weren't for international attention on the July 2015 cases."
Risk of torture and ill-treatment
International rights groups have warned that Wang, who was held incommunicado at an unknown location for much of his detention, is at particular risk of torture and ill-treatment.
Li said she remains very concerned about Wang's health and safety.
"I want to know his health situation; I am afraid for Wang Quanzhang and what may happen to him," Li said. "I hope that the international community will continue to give him their help and support, and that the Tianjin No. 2 Intermediate People's Court will issue its verdict and sentence immediately."
Rights attorney Xie Yanyi, who was among more than 300 lawyers, activists and law firm staff detained, questioned, surveilled and placed under travel and professional restrictions, said the fact that Wang had continued to plead not guilty meant that the authorities could be anxious to cover up previous torture or ill-treatment since his detention began.
"I think they are trying to limit the damage done by torture [allegations]," Xie said. "That's why they don't want to let him go just yet, because then the torture would become obvious."
"I think [the authorities] would have reassessed the situation in the light of the amount of interest the case generated, both in the international community and within China, among the relatives of July 2015 relatives," he said.
"They want to wrap this case up with as little attention as possible."
Wang reportedly fired his state-appointed lawyer at the start of his Dec. 26 trial for "incitement to subvert state power" in Tianjin, but the court said the verdict would be announced "at a later date" anyway.
Li said later that the trial was "never going to be anything other than going through the motions" and that the Tianjin No. 2 Intermediate People's Court had been in breach of legal time limits for pretrial detention since her husband's initial detention in July 2015.
Reported by Gao Feng for RFA's Mandarin Service, and by Ng Yik-tung and Sing Man for the Cantonese Service. Translated and edited by Luisetta Mudie.