China: After six years deprived of liberty, human rights lawyer finally sentenced 

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Responding to reports of a six-and-a-half-year sentence handed down today to Chinese human rights lawyer Li Yuhan on charges of “picking quarrels and provoking troubles” and fraud, Amnesty International’s Deputy Regional Director for China Sarah Brooks said:

“Li Yuhan is one of many human rights lawyers in China who have paid a huge price for their work defending individuals unjustly accused of wrongdoing. She should be released immediately and unconditionally, and the multiple allegations of her ill-treatment in detention independently investigated.

“Lawyer Li has been arbitrarily detained for six years now as part of the authorities’ relentless suppression of activists, legal advocates or anyone who peacefully stands up for human rights in China. She should be at home with her family, not in prison for merely doing her job to defend peoples’ human rights.

“Lawyers play a critical role in upholding the rule of law and safeguarding the rights of victims of human rights violations. But in China, they are under attack and at risk of becoming themselves victims. We urge the Chinese authorities to end the crackdown on those defending human rights, and we will continue to call for justice and reparations to remedy violations against them.”

Background

Li Yuhan, a lawyer in her seventies, has represented human rights lawyers and victims of human rights abuses. She was sentenced to six and a half years in prison for “picking quarrels and provoking trouble” and fraud by a court in the northeast city of Shenyang on 25 October 2023, following a secret trial two years earlier, in October 2021. Two lawyers and her brother were permitted to attend the court session. The sentence includes time served, meaning that supporters expect Li Yuhan to be released in April 2024. Li reportedly stated in court her intention to appeal the judgment.

During her years as a human rights lawyer, Li Yuhan faced frequent threats to herself and her family from Chinese authorities due to her defence of sensitive cases involving freedom of religion and belief, such as Falun Gong and Christian house churches. She also served as the legal representative for Chinese human rights lawyer Wang Yu during the “709 Crackdown” on lawyers and legal activists.

Li Yuhan first went missing in October 2017, and was formally arrested just over a month later. Her trial, originally scheduled for April 2019, was repeatedly postponed.

In October 2022, Li Yuhan shared with her lawyer that her ability to walk had been severely affected due to significant injuries to her knees, necessitating the use of two crutches. She also suffers from cardiovascular issues, high blood pressure and significant deterioration in both vision and hearing. It was further disclosed that medication, food and warm water were deliberately withheld at the detention centre, and that officers had urinated on her food. Conditions improved only after multiple complaints were lodged by Li Yuhan’s lawyer.

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