Zhao Wei’s arrest was part of an unprecedented crackdown on human rights lawyers in China, which began on 9 July 2015. To date, over 300 lawyers and their colleagues and families have been arrested, interrogated or disappeared at some point over the course of the year.
Many have now been released from prison, but over 20 remain in detention and incommunicado. Their families continue to seek access to their loved ones and justice in their cases. On 4 July, some prisoners’ wives protested outside the detention center, demanding to see their husbands. Seven lawyers’ wives also issued a joint statement calling for the release of all the detainees, a stop to the monitoring and harassment of their families, and for the rights of the detainees and their families to be respected.
The circumstances of Zhao Wei’s release on bail and her future remains uncertain, since she may still face trial. As a legal assistant, Zhao Wei worked closely with prominent lawyer Li Heping to defend the rights of religious communities and individuals as well as other victims of human rights abuses.
Like many of the other lawyers and activists arrested, Zhao Wei faces charges of “subversion of state power’, which carries a maximum penalty of life imprisonment. According to unconfirmed reports, she has been sexually abused whilst in detention.
(Information provided by Christian Solidarity Worldwide)