China/The Netherlands: Detained Rights Lawyer Wang Quanzhang Shortlisted for Tulip Rights Award

August 30, 2017

Chinese rights lawyer Wang Quanzhang has been named among the ten shortlisted nominees for the Dutch Foreign Ministry’s Human Rights Tulip award. The annual €100,000 prize recognizes “individuals or organizations that promote human rights worldwide in innovative ways” in order “to support human rights defenders and organizations, boost the visibility of their work and inspire others.” The current public vote, which closes on September 6, will select three finalists from whom the Dutch foreign minister will pick the winner.

Wang remains in custody awaiting trial more than two years after the 2015 Black Friday or 709 crackdown on  and activists, long after others have been released or tried. According to ChinaChange, “no one has heard, seen or spoken with Wang for over 700 days. Reliable sources have claimed that he has been subjected to electro-shock torture, amongst other forms of torture. Wang has refused to admit guilt or incriminate others.” His wife, Li Wenzu, has become a key member of a loose alliance of relatives that has opened a “new front” in advocacy for political detainees.

The Tulip award site describes Wang’s work as follows:

 has pioneered the use of social media in his approach to human rights defense, using public advocacy in tandem with legal representation. He promotes the idea that in China reliance on the law itself is insufficient to protect basic human rights and presses for change. He is actively training and working together with other rights defense lawyers, locally-based ‘barefoot’ lawyers, and victims, to develop a social movement.  is the founder of a system of legal aid stations, which at one point spanned 10 provinces, where key “barefoot” lawyers offered pro-bono legal aid to victims in their home communities. Through this program, over 1,000 public interest lawsuits were filed, including province-level changes to law and procedure. Besides these initiatives, Wang has developed the Urgent Action program, setting up and providing an infrastructure for lawyers and Human Right Defenders who seek financial support for the cases they work on, as well as providing direct financial assistance to HRDs at risk or to their families. In this way he institutionalizes support for the larger community.

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