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China releases human rights lawyer after over four years in jail

China released Wang Quanzhang, a human rights lawyer, from jail Sunday according to BBC reports. Wang defended political activists, religious minorities, and victims of land seizure from Chinese prosecution.

Though authorities released Wang from jail, he is placed on a mandatory quarantine in the city of Jinan for fourteen days. Chinese officials contend that the quarantine follows COVID-19 protocol. However, Wang’s family suspects that the quarantine is a cover for house arrest, since the family lives over 250 miles away in Beijing.

Wang’s wife believes that the Chinese government is planning to keep Wang and his family separated indefinitely:

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…I am really worried they plan on putting him under long-term house arrest and will prevent us from being reunited as a family…His speech is being restricted. He phoned me yesterday saying he would go to Jinan. Is this what a rational person would do after being separated from their wife and child for almost five years?

Chinese authorities sentenced Wang to four-and-a-half years in prison in January of 2019 for “subversion of state power.” Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch immediately condemned the sentencing and called for Wang’s release. Chinese officials arrested Wang on July 9, 2015 alongside approximately three hundred other lawyers and activists during a crackdown against political opposition.

The Chinese government has yet to comment on Wang’s release or Wang’s family’s allegations.