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What could happen to their children when rights lawyers are persecuted?


(12 October 2015, China Human Rights Lawyers Concern Group - Hong Kong)  China ratified the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child in 1992. As a State Party, it is obliged to take all appropriate measures to ensure that the child is protected against all forms of discrimination or punishment on the basis of the status, activities, expressed opinions, or beliefs of the child’s parents, legal guardians, or family members. (Article 2)  Moreover, States Parties shall ensure that no child shall be subjected to torture or other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment; and or deprived of his or her liberty unlawfully or arbitrarily. (Article 37) The PRC Law of the People's Republic of China on the Protection of Minors stipulates similar provisions.

However, China came under international scrutiny again when 16-year old Bao Zhuoxuan, son of renowned rights lawyer Wang Yu in China went missing in Myanmar for over 140 hours while reportedly trying to leave the country because he could no longer tolerate the perennial surveillance and harassment exerted on him by the Chinese authorities. The ordeal of Zhuoxuan is not exceptional. It is just another case in China that shows how persecution of a rights lawyer and defender can be extended beyond himself or herself to implicate his or her family members and minor children in particular – a tactic often used to intimidate and create fear.  

China Human Rights Lawyers Concern Group has retrieved information on the abuses experienced by the minor children of rights lawyers in China in view of urging for more public and international attention to the plights of the rights lawyers and their family members. As a matter of fact, this happens not only to the children of the rights lawyers. In 2013, Annie, 10-year old daughter of Zhang Lin, human rights defender in Anhui, was banned from studying in local schools.

According to the cases we have gathered, the public authorities involved in persecuting right lawyers’ children included the bureaus of public security, national security and even the schools.

Means to restrain one’s freedoms to movement included kidnapping, enforced disappearance, detention, physical assault, banned from schooling, solitary interrogation, close surveillance (e.g. forced escort to school), forbidden to communicate with the outside world, harassment such as repeated summons and banned from travelling out of the mainland territory etc. Psychological and mental harassments included verbal abuses, threatening, intimidation, smearing the parents, isolation, insulting, forced to see parents being taken or beaten, etc.

Among other serious cases, the episode depicted by the Friends Club of Gao Zhisheng in their letter to Obama was revealing.

6 years old Tinyu (son of Gao Zhisheng) asks for his papa every day. He likes drawing rockets. Every time after he has drawn one, he would want to give his papa a call and show him the drawing. But what is more distressing is his 16-year-old daughter Geng Ge. She now suffers medium depression and always stays sleepless at night. Every day, she would just talk to her father’s photo.”  

The nine cases we have tidied up are as follows:

  1. 6-year-old son Bao Zhuoxuan (包卓軒) of lawyer Wang Yu, Bao Longjun (王宇、包龍軍) (case of 2015)

  2. 5-year-old son of lawyer Li Chunfu (李春富) (case of 2015)

  3. 15-year-old son and 5-year old daughter of lawyer Li Heping (李和平) (case of 2015)

  4. 10-year-old son of lawyer Yu Wensheng (余文生) (case of 2015)

  5. 7-year-old daughter of lawyer Jiang Tianyong (江天勇) (case of 2009)

  6. 12-year-old son of lawyer Liu Shihui (刘士辉) (case of 2009-2010)

  7. 13-year-old daughter Geng Ge (耿格) and 3-year-old son Gao Tinyu, (高天宇) of lawyer Gao Zhisheng  (高智晟) (case of 2006-2009)

  8. 11-year-old daughter Yang Tinjiao (杨天娇), and 6-year-old son Yang Tin’ce (杨天策) of legal activist Guo Feixiong (郭飞雄) (case of 2007-2009)

  9. Daughter of lawyer Zheng En Chong(郑恩宠), secondary school student (case of 2006)


Details of the Cases

1.16-year-old son Bao Zhuoxuan (包卓轩) of lawyer Wang Yu, Bao Longjun (王宇、包龙军) (2015)

[Kidnapped] On 9 July, 2015, Bao Zhuoxuan was at the Capital airport in Beijing with his father Bao Longjun. They were about to fly Kuala Lumbar for transit to Australia where he would study.  As Zhuoxuan recounted afterwards, a group of people with unclear identities suddenly appeared to separate him and his father at the security checkpoint. Father and son were both caught with hands tied up to their back. Their baggage was seized by another batch of people. Zhuoxuan wanted to seek rescue but someone covered his mouth. He was taken from the side entrance of the terminal to the back seat of a car. He was seated in the middle of two men without any knowledge of what next for himself. He wished to escape but without any chance.

[Illegal detention, intimidation and threat, violence and close surveillance] After a few hours on the same day, Bao Zhuoxuan was taken to Room 8111 of Hanting Hotel on Bin You Road, Hexi, Tianjin city (天津市河西区宾友道汉庭大酒店的8111房). He was monitored by 6-7 persons. Zhuoxuan tried to resist and said he “I want to be with my parents! I want to go for study! What you are doing is illegal!”  Those who took him told him, “You better behave yourself. Otherwise you will suffer. Heed to our word, stay here and behave yourself.” Zhuoxuan then grabbed the telephone in the hotel room, intending to call his parents. He was beaten, and the phone was seized. Zhuoxuan wanted to go to the toilet, but those guarding him forbade him.  When he refused the others to go to the toilet with him, he was beaten and thrown heavily to the bed. Similar situation continued for two days. Zhuoxuan was passed on to his paternal grandmother in Tianjin on 11 July. Later he was sent to Inner Mongolia by the police. He was assigned a school there and had to go to school under police surveillance.

[Enforced questioning, banned from travelling out of the mainland territory, banned from communicating with the others, threats]  On 17 July 2015, Zhuoxuan was taken to the police station involuntarily for interviews. He was warned by the police: not to hire any lawyer, not to communicate with foreign media, not to liaise with parents’ friends, he won’t be allowed to go abroad for study. Enforced interviews and questioning of this kind happened about 4 times. When Zhuoxuan was sent to Inner Mongolia, although he found no obvious police posting outside his house like in Tianjin and he did not feel himself trailed like before. However, Zhuoxuan noticed that his daily routines seemed to be clearly known by the police. He said, “every time I contacted the lawyers, someone would come and take me for tea in the police station. They would then warned me not to contact the lawyers, not to contact foreign media, not to be in touch with those helping my parents, not allowed to go abroad… then they would very hypocritically say they were doing all this for the good of my family. Whatever they said, they would add, ‘this is for your own good sake’…. They spoke they were hinting something. Once they said, “if you continue to contact those people…..this will only bring harm to your parents”.

[Enforced disappearance]  Noon, 6 October 2015, Zhuoxuan and two activists, Tang Zhishun (唐天顺) and Xing Qingxian (幸清贤)were taken away reportedly by the Myanmar police in room 8348, Huadou Hotel in Mon La city (缅甸猛拉市的华都宾馆8348房间), a Myanmar town on the border with China. According to the lady who owned the hotel, about a dozen policemen arrived showing their police identity. They searched the room and took away the three. On 7 October, friends of the three arrived, and tried to look for them in the local police station. But the police said, “We haven’t caught anyone.” Then the friends tried with the local Political and Law Office but to no avail. They then reported the three missing to local police. But when they arrived back in the hotel, they found two police talking to the hotel owner. Thereafter, the owner declined to answer any more questions.

2.5-year-old son of Li ChunFu (李春富) (2015)

[Witnessed father being taken away by police] Lawyer Li Chunfu was cuffed and taken away by police in front of his 5-year-old kid from his Beijing home on 1 August 2015. The traumatized boy then recounted to his mother seriously, “Papa was taken away cuffed.”  The worried mother told the boy not to worry and said it was only toy. The boy, much disturbed, then insisted, “No, it wasn’t toy, it really wasn’t toy!”

3.15-year-old son and 5-year-old daughter of Li Heping (李和平)  (2015)

[Banned from travelling out of the mainland territory]  Li Heping is one of the rights lawyers being enforced disappeared. On 17 August 2015, Wang Qiaoling, wife of Li, went to apply for passports in the immigration office (under the public security bureau) of Zhengzhou (of Henan province). However, the officers there refused to take the applications, noting that instruction had been handed down by the Beijing Public Security Bureau for them to be “restrained from travelling out of the mainland territory”.

[Witnessed father being taken away] A recount of Mrs. Li, “I remember it was noon on 10 July. About 10-odd policemen came to search our house. My daughter asked me in front of them, “mother, why are police so bad?” My daughter was with her father on his way to work, and she witnessed how her father was “made under control” when they arrived close to the office. Then she saw again the sudden flux of police into her home.

4.10-year-old son of Yu Wensheng (余文生) (2015)

[Witnessed father being taken away by violence] A recount of Mrs. Yu: At around 23h15 on 6 August 2015, the Beijing police barbarically broke the door lock and forced into the lawyer’s house. When the door was forced open, family saw lawyer Yu being knocked down to the ground but were not certain of his injury. Thereafter, Yu was taken away cuffed with allegations of “picking quarrels and disturbing public order”. Only two men were in police uniform, bearing the number 044448 and 044482. All the others were in plainclothes, with one of them being woman. There was also one being the head of the Bajiao Police Station. Since none of them produced any warrant of search, I demanded them to show it. They then turned rude, and started the search in a very barbaric manner. They kept on fending the children off abusively into the other rooms. They also turned our computer on. Since the door lock was broken, we had to stay awake the whole night.

5.7-year-old daughter of Jiang Tianyong (江天勇) (2009)

[Witnessed father being beaten up, experienced solitary interrogation] On 18 November 2009, immediate upon his return from the US, the Beijing rights lawyer Jiang Tianyong was given a full day programme of solitary interrogations. At 7H30 in the morning of the 19th, he was about to send his 7-year-old daughter to school. As soon as he opened the door, he was blocked by a few people in plainclothes with violence. The girl cried in scare. The mother went downstairs and tried to stop the clashes. She however was also pushed and fell. The child was terrified. On her way to school, she kept on asking her mother, “Mama, aren’t police good people? Why do they beat papa up?” That evening, Mr. and Mrs. Jiang learnt from an internet post that that same day, the Yang Fang Dian police station sent 2 policemen to their daughter’s school and interrogated the girl about the incident of her father beating the police. The girl confirmed the news. The 7-year-old was in fact taken to a room and was interrogated without any company.

[Forced to be interrogated by police] According to lawyer Jiang, during the several times when he was house-arrested, his wife was the one to take the girl to school. As soon as they went downstairs, they would be interrogated by the guards at the end of the staircases. They would be allowed to go only after consents were given by the supervisors. But more often, they would simply be blocked as consent was not given. Then my wife would have to tell them that she was sending the girl to school or she was on her way to the market. She would be allowed to go only after repeated calls were made and consents finally granted.

[Forced to seek accommodation elsewhere] According to lawyer Jiang, during 2010, the keyhole of the door to his house was 6 times filled up with strong glue. When his wife went home with the kid, there was no means to enter the house and had to seek accommodation elsewhere.

6.12-year-old son of Liu Shihui (刘士辉) (2009-2010)

[Harassment] Between 2009 and 2010, Liu Chunnao, the 12-year-old son of lawyer Liu was harassed by the local police. When the police investigated about lawyer Liu, they would go to his ex-wife’s house, often in a way that scared the boy into crying. In 2011, during the Jasmin Revolution, Chunlao was 14, when he saw photos of his father beaten in bloodshed. He was traumatized and cried. Lawyer Liu noted, “he was the first one in the family to know about my disappearance. At that time, whenever I got into trouble or when I could not be traced, he would check online. It has been in fears of this kind that my boy gradually grew all these years.”

7.13-year-old daughter Geng Ge and 3-year-old son Gao Tianyu of Gao Zhisheng (2006-2009)

[Kidnap, house-arrest, body search, taking showers under surveillance, beaten, verbal abuses] On 15 August 2006, lawyer Gao Zhisheng was kidnapped from his sister Gao Yanfang’s home, by a dozen of public security policemen from Beijing. At the same time, his wife Geng He and daughter Geng Ge were taken away from a hair salon in the Chaoyang district of Beijing by about 40 public security policemen. Their home was thoroughly searched thereafter.

At 17H10, on 25 August, about 20 secret police from the public security branch took turns to conduct surveillance in lawyer Gao and his family’s home for 11 days. The police were organised into four 8-hour shifts. During the time, they verbally abused Gao and his wife. Thereafter, they moved to guard outside the house, in the corridor of the floor and at the main entrance to the building on the ground floor. About a dozen people were stationed. In September, they built a booth that could shelter about 10 people and the surveillance became long term. The main team of the public security also sent cars for trailing purpose. At that time, Mrs. Gao had to bear the humiliation of having to take showers and use the toilet with door opened. The living expenses for her and her daughter were often confiscated. They had to depend on the “grace” of the police, and they had to ask for permission before they could go shopping and they had to undergo body search before entering home. Geng He and Geng Ge experienced many times of verbal abuses and violent beating by the secret police.

[Surveillance, harassment, could not go to school] 12 September 2007, Gao Zhisheng issued an open letter addressing the US Congress criticizing the Chinese authorities for the human rights situation in the country. Thereafter, Gao Zhisheng “was disappeared” for over 50 days.  His 13-year-old daughter disclosed that since her father was secretly seized, police came and stationed in their house. Both she and her brother were forbidden to go to schools.  Until one day her mother cut the gas pipe in a bid to suicide, the brother and sister were allowed to go to schools again.

[Escorted to school, close surveillance and verbal abuses against father] “Every day, there were 6 or 7 policemen to escort me to school. On the way, they always used foul language against my father. The police escorted me to the classroom and they would then sit behind me, including music classes. They followed me not only to the toilets but also forbade me to close the door. My 3-year-old brother had to go the kindergarten in a police car.” Geng Ge said. Once she was dragged into a car by the police, causing injuries to her leg and her neck.

 [Smeared in school, isolated, publicly insulted, beaten] “I was only 13 at the time,” said Geng Ge. “The teachers would warn the class that there was a political prisoner in Geng Ge’s family. Whoever speaks to her will risk being thrown in prison.” Geng Ge felt that she was abandoned by the whole world and she would not lift her head up again. “These policemen would sometimes beat me in front of the whole school. They didn’t pick the lesson time; they always chose to do so during lunch hours when there are thousands of students in the playground. Then I became very unconfident. I dared not utter a word wherever I went, or even if did talk to people, I could not lift my head up. I was haunted with bad memory and felt that the police would hit me if I lifted my head up.

[Beaten] In December 2006, the 13-year-old Geng Ge was stopped by the public security police following her. She was on her way accompanying a classmate to the train station 

8.11-year-old daughter Yang Tianjiao (杨天娇), and 6-year-old Yang Tian’ce (杨天策) of Guo Feixiong (郭飞雄)  (2007-2009)

[Deprived right to education] On 29 June 2008, in her letter to Wen Jiabao, Zhang Qing (wife of Guo Feixiong) noted: the investigative unit had given Guo 5-6 threats. Two of them are (1) we will not allow your son to go to primary school; (2) we will not allow your daughter to go to secondary school. My son has lost chance for school education for already a year. Throughout this year, we still have received no notification for school enrollments. My daughter is also risking not to be accepted by any secondary school. Last year, when my son was refused entry to primary one, they said something loudly – if we kick your kid out from school, we would violate the Compulsory Education Act. But if we do not admit him, we shall violate no law. Guo’s daughter Tianjiao said, “my other classmates can all get promoted to the 47th Secondary School, why can’t I? What would my classmates who have promoted from our Huakan Primary to the 47th Secondary say about me?”

9.Daughter of Zheng Enchong (郑恩宠) (2006)

[Enforced questioning] In the afternoon of 24 September 2006, a day before lawyer Zheng Enchong, two persons went to his daughter’s school, claiming themselves from the municipal public security bureau. They said they wanted to talk to the girl. She insisted that they leave their names; otherwise she would decline meeting them. They did not disclose their names after all; and the interview did not materialize. Zheng said that one of the men told him that they had been to his daughter’s school the day before. They also menaced him with his daughter. The villain told him, “Your girl is going to graduate next year. You’d better be considerate for her. Yesterday I went to the school in plainclothes. Next time I won’t!” ª