For three years after her husband’s disappearance, Li Wenzu had no idea where he was or whether he was even alive. Wang Quanzhang, a 42-year-old Chinese human rights lawyer who had represented political dissidents and the victims of land grabs, first went missing during a 2015 crackdown, when Communist agents detained more than 320 lawyers and activists. One by one, the authorities released the other detainees, tried them in sham courts, or paraded them on television for forced confessions. But Li still had no word on her husband, except for a notice in February 2017 that he had been charged with “subversion of state power.” Li believed the radio silence from Wang meant he had resolutely resisted confessing and thus the government was punishing him.Out of desperation, Li and other lawyers’ wives became activists themselves: They petitioned the Chinese government, testified in a U.S. congressional hearing (Li by video), and protested outside the Tianjin detention center. In December 2018, Li and a few other wives shaved their heads outside a Beijing park. The Chinese word for hair (fa) sounds like the word for law: “We can do without our hair, but we can’t do without law,” they explained.It was only last July that a government-appointed lawyer was allowed to meet with Wang. On the day of Wang’s Dec. 26 trial in Tianjin, police barred Li from leaving her home in Beijing, and the court barred the public—including reporters and foreign diplomats—from attending the proceeding. What went on inside the courtroom is unclear, but it seems Wang remained defiant: Li got word that he fired his government lawyer in court, meaning he likely forced an adjournment of the trial until authorities could find him a new attorney.“This whole process has been illegal, so how could I expect an open and fair trial?” Li told The New York Times before the hearing.Wang is the last lawyer facing prosecution as a direct consequence of the Chinese government’s 2015 sweep of weiquan (or rights defense) lawyers. The weiquan movement, in which lawyers and activists use China’s own laws to protect citizens’ rights, has for more than a decade represented what the Chinese Communist Party fears as a threat to its power: governance by rule of law. While the party claims to uphold legal rights, it has fiercely opposed lawyers who seek to hold the government accountable, jailing them or driving them from the country.“China’s political system is at odds with providing citizens with basic rights,” says Teng Biao, an exiled human rights lawyer. “If everyone uses the law to defend the rights of citizens, then this political system could not survive.”Despite the formidable opposition, courageous men and women in China have risked their lives and livelihoods to pursue justice in an unjust country. They have publicized their abusive treatment in detention and spoken truth to power. Although some are now disbarred or exiled, others are working to take their place. But under an increasingly oppressive Communist regime, is there any future for China’s human rights defenders?