A Chinese human rights lawyer who spent nearly five years in prison has revealed how he had to emotionally detach himself from his family to survive.
Wang Quanzhang, 44, was released from prison earlier this month after serving four and a half years for state subversion, and he is still prohibited from reuniting with his family in the Chinese capital Beijing.
Wang was one of the hundreds of lawyers to be arrested during the ‘709’ crackdown, a purge of human rights activists by the government five years ago on 9th July which is where the name comes from.
Wang told local media: “I was suddenly isolated from the whole world and I was totally consumed by the pain that I was separated from my wife and son.
“As it went on, I had no choice but to force myself to give up my emotional reliance on them and become indifferent.”
Wang added: “Honestly, I would not be able to stand my ground for so long if I had not become indifferent. So this was why I was very aloof to my family when they visited me at prison.”
Wang’s wife Li Wenzu said that he had become a “completely changed person who was anxious and agitated” after visiting him in June last year for the first time in over four years.
Wang admitted: “I kept my distance from them at the time … but I’m beginning to warm up through regular video calls and I am trying to gradually find my way back to the psychological and emotional state of a normal person.”
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the human rights lawyer had to spend his first two weeks of freedom in self-isolation at his former home in the city of Jinan in the Chinese province of Shandong with only access to a mobile phone, according to local media.
Reports said he is also still banned from travelling to Beijing to be with his wife and seven-year-old son and he is refused an internet connection.
Wang is reportedly allowed visitors, but only under close supervision.
He was among hundreds of human rights activists arrested by the Chinese authorities during the ‘709’ purge.
In custody, the lawyer was reportedly refused to see anyone for three years before being tried behind closed doors at the end of 2018, according to reports.
He has so far declined to say whether he was tortured during his imprisonment, like the other 709 prisoners claimed, because he is reportedly scared of upsetting the authorities.
However, he called his detention “unjust” and claimed it was a “blatant retaliation” for refusing to plead guilty to his charges.
Local media said he was the only activist in the crackdown to not plead guilty or strike an agreement with the authorities.
Wang refused to accept that defending clients on alleged religious and civil rights violations constituted subversion and that he had nothing to be guilty of.
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