April 21 (UPI) -- In its latest rebuff against Beijing's human rights record, the Trump administration has called on China to lift restrictions of movement on prominent lawyer Wang Quanzhang who was recently released from prison.
State Department spokeswoman Morgan Ortagus said in a statement Monday that the United States urges China to allow Wang's freedom of movement, including the ability to join his family in Beijing, following his years of "unjust detention."
"We remain very concerned about reports of his declining physical and mental health, and of his mistreatment in prison," Ortagus said.
Wang, 44, was released from prison on April 5 after completing his sentence but has been placed under de-facto house arrest in the city of Jinan, preventing him from joining his family in the capital Beijing where he calls home, according to advocacy organization China Human Rights Lawyers Concern Group.
Wang was arrested during the so-called 709 crackdown that began on July 9, 2015, resulting in the arrests of hundreds of human rights lawyers and activists.
In December 2018, Wang was found guilty of subverting state power during a trial Amnesty International called a "cruel charade" and was sentenced in January of last year to four and a half years in prison.
The China Human Rights Lawyers Concern Group said in a statement that Chinese authorities have used the coronavirus pandemic as a pretext to prevent him from joining his family in defiance of Chinese law that says he should be returned upon his release to his main residential address.
The advocacy group said this tactic is an attempt to isolate Wang and has been used against other such lawyers, including Jiang Tianyon, who was released in February 2019 but is still under house arrest in Henan.
Ortagus also called for the release of human rights lawyers Li Yuhan and Yu Wensheng as well as "other Chinese citizens who are in detention simply for exercising their human rights and fundamental freedoms in pursuit of a more equitable and just society, govern by the rule of law."
The Trump administration has repeatedly issued warnings against China for its human rights situation. In the past few months, the United States has moved to punish Beijing for committing such abuses against its Muslim population in its northwestern Xinjiang province and against protesters in Hong Kong.