Zhao Wei: Chinese rights activist released from jail

Zhao Wei
Image caption Zhao Wei worked as an assistant to human rights lawyer Li Heping

An assistant to a prominent Chinese rights lawyer has been released from jail in the northern port city of Tianjin, police and her lawyer say.

Police said that Zhao Wei, 24, was released "in the light of a confession to crimes and a good attitude".

She was one of the youngest of dozens of rights lawyers and activists who were taken into custody this time last year on suspicion of subversion.

Ms Zhao became a point of public focus because of her age, campaigners say.

She worked as an assistant to human rights lawyer Li Heping, one of about 12 people who are in jail accused of subverting state security. State media have referred to the 12 as a "criminal gang".

Image copyright AFP
Image caption The wives of human rights lawyers detained a year ago have complained to the government about being denied access to their husbands

Li was well known for defending members of the banned religious Falun Gong group and dissident writers in addition to other sensitive cases.

Concern for Ms Zhao's welfare rose in January when she was formally arrested on charges of state subversion.

She would have faced life imprisonment if she had been convicted.

He lawyer Ren Quanniu was quoted by the AP news agency as saying that the authorities may have sought to lower public attention to the anniversary of her detention by releasing her.

"The afternoon sun is really good. To breathe freely feels great," Ms Zhao said on her microblog.

"A year is long and short, and I have had many reflections and experiences.

"At this time I just want to thank my family, and thank the police investigators who just like family members gave me unlimited help and showed genuine concern."

Correspondents say that release on bail is unusual in China's legal system, and often indicates that a suspect will continue to be closely watched but will not face prosecution.

Last July, the Chinese authorities launched what appeared to be an orchestrated campaign, when more than 280 human rights lawyers and activists - along with their associates - were summoned or detained or just disappeared. The arrests have been widely seen as the state's attempts to stifle dissent.

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