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Li Yuhan, Rights Lawyer in China, Given 6 ½ Year Sentence

SAN FRANCISCO — Li Yuhan, the Chinese human rights lawyer who won the 2020 Franco-German Prize for Human Rights and the Rule of Law, has been sentenced to six and a half years in prison. Detained six years ago, she was charged with “picking quarrels and provoking trouble.”

Li, who was tried in 2021, was sentenced on Oct. 25 in the First Courtroom of Heping District Court in the Liaoning Province city of Shenyang. She will receive credit for her time in detention and has filed to appeal the sentence.

She represented Chinese rights lawyer Wang Yu during the “709 Crackdown” in 2015, when China launched a sweeping crackdown on more than 300 lawyers and human rights defenders.

The ailing Li Yuhan, 74, has been detained at the Shenyang No. 1 Detention Center since her arrest on Oct. 9, 2017. Authorities added a third charge against her, fraud in 2018, and canceled her trial repeatedly without explanation.

Human rights officials from Germany, France, the European Union, the United States, the United Kingdom and other countries had hoped to observe the trial but were unable to as authorities packed the room with selected spectators.

Li Yuhan’s younger brother, Li Yongsheng, told VOA Mandarin, “In this so-called open trial, except for me, a family member, everyone else was kept away by the government. The Heping District Court treated this ordinary criminal case like that of a formidable enemy. They surrounded the court with iron fences and deployed many undercover police and auxiliary police.”

Wang, Li’s onetime client, told VOA Mandarin that Shenyang Heping District Court violated international norms against illegal detention and went against China’s Criminal Procedure Law, which mandates issuance of a verdict within five years.

Paul Mooney, an American human rights advocate and former Reuters journalist, said, “The sole ‘crime’ of lawyer Li Yuhan is her courage in handling highly sensitive cases related to religious freedom, including Falun Gong and house churches, and her defense of the distinguished human rights lawyer Wang Yu.

“Detaining a human rights lawyer like Li Yuhan arbitrarily for over six years without a verdict not only violates Chinese law but also underscores the Chinese Communist Party’s lack of confidence and a concerning trend of increasing political repression.”

Li’s son, Ma Wenting, who lives in Germany, told VOA Mandarin, “She has coronary heart disease and arrhythmia. She has undergone coronary artery bypass grafting and stent surgery. … My mother suffered multiple heart attacks in prison. Our family applied for medical parole three times but were all rejected.”

Teng Biao, a prominent human rights lawyer in China who has lived in the U.S. since 2014, said in a phone interview on Oct. 25, “Li Yuhan is over 70 years old and seriously ill and has been detained for more than six years. The refusal of her medical parole is not only a violation of legal procedures but also a violation of humanity.”

Li Yongsheng told VOA Mandarin that his sister had questioned the Shenyang Heping District Court’s jurisdiction since the beginning of the trial, as she did not have a registered address in the district, and she wasn’t arrested there.

“This is an illegal trial. In addition, the testimony and evidence from the prosecutor’s office cannot prove my sister is guilty at all,” he said. “The defense lawyer He Wei’s defense is very good. It is a pity that the power of judgment lies in the hands of the authorities, and the court still pronounced my sister guilty. We will have to continue to appeal and complain that the authorities violated the law.”

Teng said, “The heart of the Li Yuhan case lies in the blatant disregard for the law and proper procedures by the authorities. Her arrest and charge of ‘picking quarrels and provoking trouble’ are clearly retaliatory actions against her human rights activities. The primary and direct motive for this retaliation is her involvement in the case of Wang Yu, the first lawyer arrested in the Chinese Communist Party’s 709 crackdown. Additionally, Li Yuhan has a long history of petitioning and human rights work. This clearly indicates that the authorities are targeting her.”

Ma told VOA Mandarin, “Although the sentence of six years and six months is relatively severe, compared with the previous indefinite extended detention, our family can see more hope. … I hope my seriously ill mother can be released from prison as soon as possible and receive medical treatment. I also hope the prison will guarantee my mother’s basic human rights and the right to see a doctor.”

Source : VOA News