Christian activist disappeared after raising concerns over “chained woman” case

Li Yu protested for a formal investigation into the chained woman case
(Photo: ChinaAid source)

(Zaozhuang, Shandong province—March 8, 2022) Li Yu, a Christian human rights activist, was taken away by Zaozhuang police for investigating the Xuzhou chained woman case. Li called on the government to hold a formal investigation, but she forcibly disappeared over 10 days ago.

Li Yu left a voice message to a friend of her before being disappeared, saying, “Police came by yesterday, asking Zhao Zhongxiang who is responsible for monitoring me to contact me. I didn’t respond. Today they came again for the same purpose, asking me if I knew. They said they would take me away on March 3 and 8 and may take some measures!”

According to reports from RFA, Jie Lijian who lives in Los Angeles, California, is Li Yu’s friend. On March 3 he told RFA that Li Yu asked him for help before her disappearance:

She sent me an urgent message, saying that some people from the local government found her and stole her cellphone and social media apps. Afterward, her posts including tweets on Twitter were deleted, and it was weird. We know that the Chinese government controls all her contacts and messages that she shared with others.

Jie Lijian and Li Yu set a codeword before she disappeared. Li Yu would send him a red rose emoji via Telegram every day, which indicated that she was okay. However, she has not sent an emoji since February 22, and none of her friends knows her whereabouts.

At present, Li Yu’s friends have endeavored to help her and planned to ask relevant departments of the UN for help. Jie Lijian told RFA that Li Yu’s friends were compiling related materials and would turn to UN Women, Amnesty International, and other organizations whose mission focuses on women’s human rights. Jie disclosed, “UN Women has an office in mainland China, and human rights activists living in China will reach out to them and ask for help.”

Li Yu is a native of Zaozhuang, Shandong. In 2008, she began her journey to defend her rights because her property and farm were destroyed. Later, she was arrested twice by Chinese authorities for attending events commemorating the Tiananmen Square Massacre. In total, she was sentenced to 6 years. She gave birth to a child before the second conviction. She was stripped of child custody by the Court and the child was sent to an orphanage. Li Yu attended events to advocate for citizen journalist Zhang Zhan and Teacher Li Tiantian— a teacher who was detained in a psychiatric hospital after being released in August 2021.

On February 16, 2022, Li Yu met with her nearly-nine-year-old son for the first time in three years. Li recounted:

It was only about 10 minutes. I was so emotional at that time, the village secretary said that the child cried, but how come you cried as well. I couldn’t help it. The child is so young, mature, and behaves well. He (the son) knows that I have difficulties, so he said to me in tears that he didn’t want to go. Then he (the village secretary) carried away my son back into the orphanage.

Li Yu had difficulty visiting her son after serving her second sentence:

Someone arranged the visit to my son when I was released the first time. But nobody brought it up after I was released the second time. I came to their offices and spoke to government leaders, but they all avoided meeting with me on the excuse that they were in meetings, traveling for work, or didn’t know my matter… nobody would coordinate and help me solve the issue.

Li Yu told FRA that she and the child’s dad broke up after her first release. The child’s dad has not taken care of the child since then. At present, her child is a third-grader at Zaozhuang Experimental School. His character has changed according to Li, “My child was cute and active while he was young. He doesn’t talk while seeing me. He weeps instead, so it is heartbreaking to me.” She told RFA that she missed her son so much, but she is not allowed to visit him at school.

~Yu Bing, ChinaAid contributing reporter

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