From left to right, Bao Zhuoxuan, Wang Yu, and Bao Longjun, in undated photos. (Photos courtesy of an RFA listene)
The teenaged son of prominent human rights lawyer Wang Yu is “noticeably depressed with no appetite” after Chinese police stopped him from boarding a plane to attend university in Australia, his father told RFA’s Mandarin Service on Tuesday.
Bao Zhuoxuan, Wang’s son, was stopped by customs officials in Tianjin as he was preparing to board a flight to Tokyo on Monday, held for an hour and then sent away after officials cut two corners of his passport to make the document invalid, his father Bao Longjun said on social media.
Bao Longjun told RFA in an interview that Chinese authorities, who told Zhuoxuan that he posed a potential threat to national security while abroad, were wrong to drag a minor into adults’ politics.
“The child is noticeably depressed with no appetite and couldn’t sleep at night,” Bao Longjun told RFA.
“He has passed the college entrance exam and has been admitted by Melbourne University, Australia. He wanted to go abroad to study but he was worried about this issue,” the father said.
“The child was moved to Inner Mongolia and has been under surveillance by four or five security guards. Local police told us that we need to stay in Inner Mongolia for another year,” added Bao Longjun.
Wang Yu was one of the first and most prominent of hundreds of human rights lawyers and associates swept up by Chinese authorities in a crackdown that started in July 2015.
Following a nationwide operation targeting rights lawyers, activists, their families, and employees, at least 19 of the more than 300 detained, questioned, or otherwise affected were held on suspicion of subversion with no access to a lawyer.
Wang’s son’s setback at Tianjin airport came as a translated account of her first two months of detention, from July to September 2015, was published as part of the book titled “The People’s Republic of the Disappeared: Stories From Inside China’s System for Enforced Disappearances.”
Excerpts of the book published by the website China Change describe her rough arrest by dozens of people who had broken into her house without presenting any warrant or other legal paperwork.
“I hadn’t even finished speaking before more than a dozen people were inside, pushing me onto the bed, handcuffing me with my hands behind my back. In almost the same movement, someone was forcing a black hood over my head. He had a Tianjin accent,” Wang wrote.
Since I had already been illegally detained several times in the past by Public Security or court police during certain cases—you can imagine how much risk a lawyer with legal professional ethics faces in China—I wasn’t immediately too scared,” she wrote.
“I tried to struggle, but it was impossible to make any difference as a woman against such a large number of attackers,” added Wang.
Taken to a hidden location where she would stay for one month, Wang faced daily mistreatment at the hands of her captors.
“I was told to take off all my clothes, stand in the middle of the room for inspection, and to turn my body three times. I objected to this insulting order. But these young girls didn’t care,” Wang wrote.
“They rushed forward, pushed me against the floor, and stripped me. I was crying, and pleading with them at the same time. Why would they insult me like this? Why didn’t they have any compassion? Why were they so violent to a small woman like me?”
She was put in coarse iron handcuffs and shackles and punished if she failed to sit inside a small square on the detention center floor.
“Indeed, I felt that I was dying. I had entered an empty state; a pain that is hard to describe. I couldn’t breathe. I felt pain in every part of my body. I felt that my soul had already drifted away. That day, I thought, I really was like a dead person.
Wang’s arrest on July 9, 2015 took place the same night as her son was scheduled to fly out of Beijing to study abroad, but he was stopped at the airport and ended up under house arrest in remote Inner Mongolia, where Wang hails from.
Wang’s strong concern for her son “divulged a weakness for them to exploit. From that moment on, over the following year, they would often mention my son,” she wrote.
“When I did finally get back home after a year, I learned he had been under house arrest; that he had been prohibited from studying abroad; and had been monitored by more than a dozen guards every day.
“He was so young. At just 16 years old, he had also become a victim of the regime. My heart was devastated. A regime that uses a mother’s son to threaten her is shameless to the extreme,” wrote Wang.
Patrick Poon, China researcher for Amnesty International, told the online news site Hong Kong Free Press that her essay “once again shows how much pressure human rights lawyers and activists in China have to face.”
“It’s incomprehensible and ridiculous how a teenager preparing to study overseas would be accused of possibly ‘endangering national security.’ It’s obvious that it’s a retaliation against his parents’ human rights work,” said Poon.
Wang was released on bail in August 2016, but remains under tight surveillance with her family in Inner Mongolia and seldom sees friends or former law colleagues, her lawyer told RFA in a previous report.