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After 20 months, Wendell Brown still languishes in Chinese prison

Wendell Brownstanding at the front of a classroom
Courtesy of Antoinette Brown

In September, 2016, Detroit native Wendell Brown was having a drink with friends at a bar in China, when a drunk man threw a glass bottle at him, according to witnesses.

Brown, a former Ball State football star, was accused of throwing a punch and knocking the man down. He has denied he hit anyone.

His trial was last July.
Brown's family has been waiting on a verdict ever since, but on Tuesday a decision was postponed yet again.
Antoinette Brown, Wendell Brown's mother, and John Kamm, the CEO of the Dui Hua Foundation, a nonprofit based in San Francisco that works with the Chinese government to seek clemency and better treatment for detained foreigners, joined Stateside Wednesday to discuss the case.

"Twenty months is just way off the chart. He should not be there by now, even under Chinese law," says Kamm. "And in this case, his rights have been violated under international law, and he is presently being arbitrarily detained."

Kamm says he is hopeful that Brown will be sentenced soon and immediately deported, so he doesn't have to spend any more time in jail.

He says the White House and State Department are making Brown's case a priority.

Kamm does not think the fact that Brown is African-American is playing a role in authorities dragging out his sentencing.    

"This particular problem - indefinite delays is rendering a judgment - is unforunately quite common," he says, citing a case of another American who has been jailed in China since 2012 without sentence being imposed.

In a statement, the Chinese Consulate General in Chicago wrote:  

China is a country ruled by law. All men are equal before the law. China’s judicial system protects the legitimate rights of everyone according to law. Wendell Brown was involved in a brawl in Chongqing, China and suspected of hurting others intentionally. We believe that the court will handle this case in a just and lawful manner. Following relevant treaty between China and the US, the Chinese side has informed the American Consulate in Chengdu about this case and provided assistance and convenience for American consular officials to visit Mr. Brown.

Listen to the full interview with Kamm and Antionette Brown above.

*Correction: An earlier version of this post stated that Wendell Brown threw a punch and knocked a man down. Mr. Brown, through a family representative, has denied he hit anyone. The post has been changed to reflect this. 

*This post was last updated on June 22, 2018 at 9:06am. 

Tracy Samilton covers energy and transportation, including the auto industry and the business response to climate change for Michigan Public. She began her career at Michigan Public as an intern, where she was promptly “bitten by the radio bug,” and never recovered.
Stateside is produced daily by a dedicated group of producers and production assistants. Listen daily, on-air, at 3 and 8 p.m., or subscribe to the daily podcast wherever you like to listen.
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