Chinese activist Lu Yuyu freed from prison after four years behind bars, lawyer says

Keegan Elmer

A Chinese activist jailed in 2016 for publishing censored information about protests, strikes and demonstrations in China has been freed, his lawyer said on Friday.

Lu Yuyu and his then girlfriend and fellow campaigner Li Tingyu were apprehended in Dali, southwest China’s Yunnan province, on June 16, 2016.

For the three years before their arrest, the couple had been running the popular Wickedonna blog, which provided a daily record of protests happening across the country, which they gleaned from social media platforms like Weibo – China’s Twitter-like service – and online message boards.

In that time they are thought to have published details of about 70,000 incidents that would otherwise have been lost to China’s censors, who strictly patrol social media accounts and delete material deemed offensive to the authorities.

Lu was sentenced to four years in prison on June 16, 2016. Photo: Twitter

After being detained, Lu and Li were charged with “picking quarrels and provoking trouble”, a vague charge often used to detain dissidents in China.

At his trial in August 2017, Lu was also accused of fabricating information and sentenced to four years in prison. Li was also given a custodial term but released in 2017, her lawyers said at the time.

Lu was expected to complete his sentence on Monday, and although his release date has not been confirmed, his lawyer, Wang Zongyue, said his client was now free and had returned home to his family in Zunyi, south China’s Guizhou province.

Wang, who was one of the few people allowed to see Lu during his incarceration, said his client frequently complained of being tortured and physically assaulted. On one occasion Lu said he was beaten by prison guards for asking to have the lights in his cell turned off at night – they were otherwise kept on around the clock.

Five months after they were detained, Lu and Li, who are no longer a couple, were named as winners of a Press Freedom award by Reporters Without Borders.

In 2019, the European Union called for Lu’s release during its annual human rights dialogue with China.

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