Jailed Chinese Lawyers Get Mother's Day Visit, Video Call

Jailed Chinese rights lawyer Yu Wensheng, who was held incommunicado for three years and sentenced to jail for “incitement to subvert state power,” was allowed a visit from relatives at the weekend, his wife said.

Yu’s young son was allowed to visit his father in Nanjing Prison on May 9, along with his mother Xu Yan, Xu told RFA.

The couple’s son spoke with Yu by phone from behind a glass partition during the half-hour visit, Xu said.

“Yu Wensheng had a very good chat with our son,” she said. “Both them were laughing a lot, and there was no sense of strangeness.”

“Yu Wensheng gave him a lot of guidance and advice about various things that were going on in his life, and he took it readily,” Xu said.

“Our son told his father that he missed him, and Yu was happy to hear that,” she said. “Yu told him that he had wanted to spend more time with him … and apologized for not being there longer than three years.”

The reunion was the first face-to-face meeting in more than three years, with the authorities blaming the coronavirus pandemic for the repeated cancelation of family visits.

‘Stressful and emotionally damaging’

But Xu said having her son speak to his father in a prison visiting room via a telephone was also not enough, and that the authorities had turned down her request for an informal visit.

“There are legal and practical precedents for [more humane] family visits,” Xu said. “For example, getting to see the person face-to-face, sometimes maybe eat together.”

“[We could] sit face-to-face in their dormitory, sitting on the bed and chat to them,” she said.

“That part of the visit was actually pretty stressful, and emotionally damaging,” Xu said. “I was hoping to protect our son, a minor, as much as possible.”

“It’s a shame that Nanjing Prison didn’t agree to it.”

Xu said Yu is currently in a section of the prison with no air-conditioning, sparking concerns for his well-being in the summer heat in Nanjing, one of China’s notorious “furnace” cities.

Meanwhile, authorities in the southwestern region of Guangxi arranged a video call between detained rights lawyer Qin Yongpei and his elderly mother, coinciding with the U.S. celebration of Mother’s Day, Qin’s wife told RFA.

“Since [Qin was detained] last year, she has been staying up late at night, even sitting up until dawn,” Deng Xiaoyun said after the visit.

She said Qin’s mother had started refusing food in protest at not being allowed to contact her son.

“She stopped eating or drinking and went on a hunger strike,” Deng said. “She fainted [on May 8] … and stopped breathing.”

“Luckily they were able to revive her,” she said.

Trouble maintaining composure

“[The court] made an arrangement that was actually humane … and she has come back to life and is eating and drinking again, which is amazing,” Deng said, adding that the video call had finally been approved after multiple requests.

“Throughout the call, the old lady was very happy, full of energy and didn’t cry,” Deng said. “She kept saying ‘I thought I would never see you again’.”

“I saw Qin Yongpei was having trouble maintaining his composure, but he managed not to cry, and consoled his mother,” she said.

“He told her ‘I’m going to get out of here; you just have to wait for me’,” Deng said.

Deng said she wasn’t optimistic about Qin’s chances of release, however.

“I am a very pessimistic person .. but he always sees life as being full of hope; that’s just the way he is,” she said.

Family members have long suspected that Yu Wensheng was tortured and ill-treated while in custody, as he only has limited use of his right hand, and is unable to write, brush his teeth or harvest crops as part of prison labor.

He was recently sent to hospital for medical attention to his hand.

Earlier this year, Yu was named as a finalist for the Martin Ennals Award honoring human rights defenders.

The Martin Ennals Foundation called him “one of the best-known and most intrepid human rights activists” in China, acknowledging that Yu has been subjected to arbitrary detention, a secret trial, and the removal of his license to practice law.

Qin Yongpei was detained in early November by the Nanning municipal police department during a raid on his Baijuying legal consultancy company.

His wife Deng has previously said that Qin had spoken out many times about misconduct and injustices perpetrated by police and local judicial officials, and had likely angered many within the local law enforcement community.

Reported by Gao Feng for RFA’s Mandarin and Cantonese Services. Translated and edited by Luisetta Mudie.

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