Wang QuanZhang: I hope to make up for what my family has lost over the years

Chinese human rights lawyer Wang Quanzhang reunited with his wife and son on Monday evening, after being imprisoned for four and a half years. Despite being jointly managed by Beijing and Jinan City, Wang hopes to live in Beijing for the long run and spend more time with his family.

Wang Quanzhang probably never expected a medical emergency would become the ultimate reason for him to be reunited with his wife and son. After spending the last five years apart, the prominent human rights lawyer returned to Beijing on Monday evening, and the family of three burst into tears as they hugged each other tightly.

Previously, Wang’s wife, Li Wen-Zu, told Deutsche Welle that she felt both excited and anxious as she prepared for Wang to be released from prison after spending the last four and a half years behind bars. And in a widely-shared video on Twitter on Monday, Li hugged Wang tightly while she cried uncontrollably. Later, the family of three sat on the couch and posed for a picture with smily faces.

Li Wen-Zu hospitalized for acute appendicitis

Originally, Wang was told by local police in Jinan City that since he has been deprived of political rights for five years, he wouldn’t be able to return to Beijing and reunite with his wife and son. However, on Sunday, Li suddenly experienced extreme abdominal pain and was sent to the hospital. She was later diagnosed with an acute appendicitis and had to receive IV drips as she waited for her stats to become suitable for surgery.

After hearing about the news, Wang Quanzhang immediately tried to hire a taxi to get to Beijing. However, he was stopped by the police on the highway and took back to Jinan City. After expressing his wish to return to Beijing to take care of Li and his son, police in Jinan said they would share the information with their superiors. On Monday, Wang was escorted back to Beijing by around ten police officers. On Monday night, Li wrote a thankful tweet on Twitter. “Quanzhang arrived at home around 7:51 pm tonight,” she wrote. “Thanks to everyone who has been paying attention to his case and supporting us.”

Making up for the family’s loss

In an interview on Tuesday morning, Wang Quanzhang said that he feels extremely thankful for being reunited with Li Wen-Zu and his son. To him, this is the first time that he feels everything is “real” in many years. “I have been separated from my wife and son for almost five years,” Wang said. “When I was in prison, I could only see them through a glass and talk to them through the phone. This is the first time in five years that our family has been reunited.”

Even though he was stopped by the police when he tried to get back to Beijing on Sunday, Wang said the moment he was told that he could finally return to Beijing, he felt a deep sense of relief. “I was very excited, and on my way back to Beijing, I was appreciating all the sceneries along the way,” said Wang. “I was feeling particularly great. It was a very different feeling from what I felt when I was still in Jinan.”

According to Wang, the police told him that he will be jointly managed by law enforcement officers in Jinan City and Beijing. To him, since he can be monitored by police officers in Beijing, he thinks there is no need for him to return to Jinan. “I hope to spend more time in Beijing,” Wang said. “Since I’m still under medical observation, I want to take this opportunity to enjoy some quality time with my family, making up for what we have lost over the last five years.”

However, Wang Quanzhang also said that as he is deprived of his political rights, the government tried to expand the definition of deprivation of his political rights. The range of rights that will be deprived from him include his right to free expression, his right to march, his right to attend gatherings and his right to publish. Later on, they even told him that he is banned from being interviewed by the media, as that right is considered as part of the right to free expression.

“I think their arguments are very contradicting but I still try to treat it cautiously,” Wang said. “I think the right to free expression is not a political right, but a basic human right. Since I was released from prison, I have been trying to argue with them, but they still insisted that my right to be interviewed by the media is part of my right to free expression. They don’t want me to be interviewed by the media.”

As a result, Wang said he will be very careful with his public speeches. “I’m put under a very delicate situation, and I think many people tried to secretly increase my punishment, which is very unacceptable to me,” Wang said.

Despite the ongoing difficulties, Wang expressed his deepest gratitude towards all the support that he has received over the last five years. He thinks that these support helped his family through a very tough period of time, and it also helped to ensure his safety and health.

“I hope more media outlets will keep paying attention to human rights activists and human rights lawyers detained for defending basic human rights and freedom in China,” Wang said.

This article first appeared in Mandarin on DW’s Chinese website.