Li Wenzu, the wife of a detained Chinese lawyer, Wang Quanzhang, began a march of more than 100-km on Wednesday. She is walking to force authorities to explain the arrest of her husband back in 2015. She has not heard from him since the arrest and is pressing authorities for answers. Outside a court complaints office, Li Wenzu told reporters, “We are walking to seek an answer from the Chinese legal system. Is China really a country with rule of law? … Over the last 999 days, we have tried every possible legal means to find out what has happened to him, but there has been no result.”
Most of those who have been detained are in prison or under house arrest, however many make public confessions and are sentenced in secret trials. The difference with this case, however, is that no information has been released about his whereabouts, so Li is even unaware if he is still alive. This causes Li to become a very active activist on behalf of her husband. Through support from other families, she often visits the courts to file missing person’s reports.
Her walk to the final destination of Tianjin is to take 12 days and is done over the 1,000-day anniversary of the disappearance of her husband. Her husband was held back in August of 2015, when more than 200 activists were held as a nationwide crackdown took place. The crackdown, now known to many as the “709” crackdown, is a sign of the growing intolerance China has under President Xi Jinping for disagreement (July 9th was the official date this process began, hence the name “709.”)
Tianjin is the chosen location because Li believes her husband is held there. She also suspects that her husband may have been tortured. Her plan for the walk was done in secret as authorities had already kept a close eye on her. She says, “I didn’t send anything publicly, otherwise they would have known and stopped me.”
Many wives have become advocates for their husbands, just like Li. Even though there are many restrictions and the risk is high for consequences, Li holds power in China as the government places more surveillance on her. She is emerging as a true female figure even in a tough situation, such as the one she is in currently.
Hopefully Li’s statement will further allow more conversation to be spread in the country about those held due to the 709 crackdown.
Photo: Greg Baker/AFP