January 18, 2017
“Chunfu was thin like sticks, he was pale, his eyes lifeless.” This was the initial reaction of Bi Liping when she opened her apartment door on January 12, 2017, and found her husband, human rights lawyer Li Chunfu. After more than 500 days of secret detention, Li had been “released on bail.”
It was soon apparent that the once tough, lively human rights defender had changed dramatically, and not just in terms of his appearance: Li is now fearful and paranoid. When he first arrived home, he was too afraid to enter; once he did he was too afraid to leave. Soon after his abrupt release, a Beijing psychiatric hospital gave him a tentative diagnosis of schizophrenia.
Li is one of the more than 300 human rights lawyers and advocates whom the Chinese authorities rounded up nationwide in July 2015. Though most have been released, four remain detained while two were imprisoned. Others “released on bail” have been forced into silence. Li’s situation raises alarms over the treatment of those still held.
Li grew up poor in Henan Province, dropping out of school to work in factories. He eventually taught himself law and started practicing in 2005. He chose to become a human rights lawyer, one who “cherished each case he took,” according to his sister-in-law. Li’s life experiences fighting injustice made him a strong figure.
DAY OF THE ENDANGERED LAWYER JANUARY 24, 2017 (CHINA):