A detained Chinese human rights lawyer has released a video saying that he would never agree to be represented by a government-appointed attorney, in a statement recorded months before his arrest and released on Wednesday.
China says a detained rights activist fired his lawyers. This video suggests otherwise
Supporters of Yu Wensheng released the video after his wife was notified by authorities last week that Yu had dismissed the two lawyers he had previously hired.
“I will never accept a lawyer appointed by the authorities, unless I am tortured,” Yu says in the video, adding that he would accept a lawyer chosen by his wife.
But his wife, Xu Yan, said police last week had handed her a written statement from Yu saying he had fired both of his lawyers and would not allow her to appoint a lawyer on his behalf.
Xu said she feared that her husband wrote the statement under duress.
Yu was detained in January and disbarred. He was officially arrested on subversion charges last week.
It is not uncommon for Chinese human rights activists to record pre-emptive video statements when they believe they are in danger during a crackdown.
After being released, some activists have said they were forced to make statements on state television before their trial, and to accept representation by lawyers arranged by the authorities.
Yu has been a persistent voice for reform in China, despite the country’s sweeping and increasingly severe crackdown on civil society under President Xi Jinping.
He has said that the authorities imprisoned and tortured him for 99 days in 2014 for allegedly “disturbing public order” with his support of Hong Kong’s pro-democracy Occupy Central movement.
Yu was one of six lawyers who attempted to sue the Chinese government last year over the country’s chronic smog.
This article’s headline has been corrected. Yu Wensheng is said to have dismissed the lawyers he appointed. He has not been assigned a government-appointed lawyer, as we originally stated.