A lawyer detained for defending his client. That’s what happened to Wang Quanzhang, a Beijing rights lawyer who took on the case of Zhu Yanian, a 68-year old who practiced Falun Gong, the spiritual practice that’s persecuted in China. Zhu was taken by the police after they searched and found Falun Gong materials in his home.
Wang argued that the court was violating the law by assuming that Zhu was guilty, and Wang himself was taken away after trying to take pictures of his own evidence. That itself isn't surprising, as Falun Gong is a taboo topic in China, and lawyers are harassed and persecuted by the authorities for taking on Falun Gong cases.
But it’s what happened afterwards that’s interesting. More than 130 lawyers signed a letter, and hundreds of people even protested outside the court to ask for Wang’s release. Wang was eventually released after serving less than 3 days of his 10-day sentence. What does this case suggest about the path of legal reform in China? And what are the implications for future defendants—and lawyers who try to help them?