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China rights lawyer freed after 5 years in jail

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A leading Chinese human rights lawyer has been released from prison after almost five years behind bars, his wife said Sunday.

Wang Quanzhang, 44, was first detained in 2015 in a sweeping crackdown on more than 200 lawyers and government critics in China as President Xi Jinping tightened his grip on power.

But Wang has yet to return home to his family in Beijing and was instead escorted Sunday to a property he owns in eastern Shandong province for 14 days in quarantine as a precaution against the coronavirus, according to wife Li Wenzu.

Li told AFP from Beijing, where she lives with the couple’s young son, she feared Wang would be placed under house arrest despite his release from prison, and would be subject to surveillance.

“I think (authorities) have been lying to us step by step,” Li said.

“They used the pretext of the epidemic as an excuse to quarantine him for 14 days when he should have been able to return to his home in Beijing according to the relevant legal guidelines.” 

Calls to the prison went unanswered Sunday and Shandong’s justice department did not respond to enquiries from AFP.

Wang’s initial detention in 2015 came as part of the so-called “709” crackdown, nicknamed as such because it began on July 9 that year.

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