(Midland, Texas) China Aid Association is pleased to announce Ms. Li Yuhan as the winner of the Lin Zhao Freedom Award 2023 from a group of five qualified nominations for her exemplary commitment to the progression of rule of law in China.
Lawyer Li Yuhan is an imprisoned human rights lawyer in Beijing and recognized by many in China’s human rights community as the “elder sister,” a title that both reflects her age and her compassionate words and deeds. As a human rights lawyer, she often represented cases on sensitive freedom of belief issues and those requiring free access to government information. She was the defense lawyer for the main victim of the “709 Crackdown” in 2015 on human rights lawyers, Wang Yu.
Unexpectedly on October 9, 2017, Ms. Li sent a text message to her brother saying that she was being “taken away” by the police in Shenyang city, Liaoning province. Her family sought answers to her whereabouts for days. On November 15, 2017, Li Yuhan was formally arrested.
After multiple sudden cancellations of her trial dates in 2019, Lawyer Li appeared in court for her first trial in the People’s Court of Heping District, Shenyang City on October 20, 2021. The court was guarded by a large number of police officers. Other human rights lawyers and human rights defenders who tried to observe the trial were prevented from entering the court.
Two years after the trial, on October 25, 2023, the Liaoning Court held another trial on the case to announce the verdict. The court did not allow human rights lawyer Wang Yu and diplomats from Germany, France, the United States and other countries to observe. Lawyer Li was charged with “picking quarrels and provoking trouble” and “fraud” and was sentenced to six years and six months in prison; Li Yuhan said he would appeal.
Li Yuhan suffers from cardiovascular disease, stomach problems, and other ailments; her health deteriorated as she was subjected to verbal abuse and other abuse while in detention. The authorities have repeatedly rejected requests for medical parole from Li Yuhan himself, her family and her lawyers.
The Lin Zhao Freedom Award is awarded in honor of Lin Zhao, a Chinese Christian who was murdered for her dissent against the Communist Party. An outspoken author and poet, she was classified as a rightist in 1958 four years after enrolling at Beijing University. In October 1960, she was arrested for participating in the planning of the underground publication “Xinghuo/Spark.” During her time imprisoned in the Tilanqiao Prison, she used her blood to write a book against then-Chairman Mao Zedong and the Chinese Communist Party’s “Tyranny Enslavement.” On April 29, 1968, Lin Zhao was sentenced to death, and the officials shot her on the same day.
On August 22, 1980, the Shanghai Higher People’s Court posthumously revoked the ruling and found her not guilty on the grounds of mental illness. On December 30, 1981, they reviewed the case again and concluded that the mental illness ruling was inappropriate, fully acquitting her.
“Li Yuhan is the archetype for Chinese human rights defenders in her courage and integrity. Just like the namesake of the award Lin Zhao, Li’s steadfast work spanning decades point to her dedication to a more free China,” Dr. Bob Fu, Founder and President of ChinaAid on behalf of the selection committee, said of the award winner. He continued, “ChinaAid and our partners will continue to relentlessly call for her release and support her during the length of her imprisonment.”
In response, Lawyer Li’s brother Li Wing Sang said:
I was very touched today to learn that my sister Li Yuhan won the Lin Zhao Freedom Award. The fact that Lawyer Li Yuhan won this award is an affirmation and encouragement for her unremitting efforts in pursuing freedom and advocating for justice. It will make her deeply gratified. I would like to express my heartfelt thanks to all of you on my own behalf! I call on friends from all walks of life around the world to pay more attention to those who work tirelessly to pursue freedom, advocate justice and serve the public interest, and to pay more attention to Lawyer Li Yuhan’s case and physical health.