|L-R: Rep. Chris Smith, R-N.J., with Li
Heping on Oct. 12, 2005, during Li’s
visit to the U.S. (Photo: China Aid)
(Beijing—Nov. 30, 2015) Wang Qiaoling, the wife of Li Heping, a Christian human rights lawyer, released a letter describing her experiences on the night of his detention and in the events which followed. Li disappeared into police custody on July 10 during a widespread crackdown on human rights lawyers across China.
Leaving Fear Behind: My 130 Days
On July 10, a day like any other, I went to my son’s school to attend a discussion for his class’s graduation trip and came home at noon. Fortunately, my young daughter had been pestering her father to let her go to work with him. She had finally succeeded, so I was free. As I was congratulating myself, the door suddenly opened. Heping [my husband] came in escorted by several men, passed our daughter to me, and was then taken away by two men. The other two stayed in my home and kept me from using my phone. I thought the public security merely wanted to talk with Heping, but they made a big ordeal of it.
What followed was beyond anything I expected: a large number of police in plainclothes came in and out, and one was left to stay with me. The persons outside knocked on the door, the person inside told me open it. This felt like a performance for their own benefit, and I, displeased, angrily said: “Open it yourself!” Sure enough, they opened the door themselves and showed me a search warrant. To be honest, my fingers were trembling. I do not know what happened!
If I had known that in the days to follow [I would become] a wife looking for her husband’s whereabouts and never available, I don’t think I would have signed.
At the time, I signed. I knew that within 24-48 hours, I would receive a notification from the police, and the lawyers would then be allowed to meet with [him]. Looking back now, my expectations then should have been right, but reality did not match.
After 48 hours, we could not find a department that would claim responsibility for this case in Tianjin, and I was actually scared! During the time of 9/11, there were terrorist organizations that admitted that they were responsible matters [like this], so how can the dignified Chinese police dare to arrest people without daring to admit it? So 7/10 is 9/11 in my life [Editor’s note: Li Heping disappeared into police custody on July 10]. I, the fool, was at long last enlightened by the Chinese police. Furthermore, I see how they truly handle [these things]: on one hand they shout loudly about rule of law, and on the other they wantonly trample on China’s legal system!
I was truly afraid! I was hardly sleeping at night—always restless. Before, I rejoiced to hear the sound of a knock on the door: [it was] either a messenger delivering things or friends stopping by to talk. But now, whenever I hear a knock, I always grab the children, warily ask [who is there], then dare to open the door. Sometimes I take the risk of opening the door, always planning for the worst— afraid to open the door, [only to see] a group of police outside!
This fear lasted until I sued CCTV and Xinhua.net. Everyone thought I was summoned for writing articles, but I was not. I appointed a lawyer, wrote the petition, which was reprinted by Boxun Network. I was summoned for “causing a disturbance.” I was taken to the police station by six or seven police, who collected blood, fingerprints, footprints, palm prints, height, and weight. Alas, I really do not want people to know my weight! But I was suspected of a criminal offense, and it was necessary to collect a full set [of information]. (Because of this, I sued the Beijing Public Security Bureau in the Dongcheng District People’s Court.) I was taken to an interrogation room. I had no experience [with this kind of thing]. I was asked, and I answered. I saw notes instructing my interrogators to produce a work permit. I understand [now] that if they do not produce a work permit, then I have the right not to answer. Truly a good lesson!
This took five hours, in addition to the four hours I was too scared to open the door that morning. After nine hours of [this] experience, I was not scared anymore. The worst result would be “to be disappeared” like Zhang Liumao [Editor’s note: Zhang Liumao, a human rights activist, died in detention, possibly due to torture.] Things cannot be avoided just because of fear. The police mean [Heping is] not allowed to see a lawyer nor allowed to send a text message. As a metaphor, I said it is like robbers entered and looted the house, beat me, and took things away, and afterward, I am supposed to report to the police, right? Is it right that if the robbers said “don’t report this,” then I shouldn’t, and if the robbers said “don’t leak the news that we robbed you,” then I keep silent? If I don’t keep silent, am I spoiling the robber’s wrongdoing? I cannot guarantee I can protect myself if robbers visit again, but I am always obligated to warn my neighbors: bandits are very cruel, you should be careful, right?
So, 7/10 has enriched my knowledge and experience. I have learned during this run through of the legal system. [Now,] I know that if the police find you to talk, you can say “no.” If they insist that you talk, ask them to produce a document first. This is your right; it will be useless if you don’t use it. There is more knowledge here, and I will write later to list it.
One hundred thirty days—one-third of the year. A third of the year’s time is gone in such a way! Now, what I am most worried about is the safety of the persons who have been missing. A “Zhang Liumao” is enough to make us shudder with fear, not to mention so many lawyers in [detention]. However, if we overcome the fear, you will find that your goal is no longer simply hoping that everything goes by quickly. Such things are never gone! The day before yesterday [it was] a writer, yesterday [it was] a public welfare advocate, and today, a lawyer—who will it be tomorrow? One day when the public authority is not limited, everyone will encounter this. Up from the high ranking officials, down to the civilian population. We look forward to not only these lawyers being released, but [also to the day when] every citizen understands that protection of human rights has never been [a fight] that someone else should fight for us, but [is rather something] you should fight for yourself within the system of law. Do not say now is dark, for every dynasty is dark. The key point is should we live in the light? It is the light of hope within, and no matter how others trample goodness, we still don’t hate it. That hope is my belief in the Lord Jesus Christ.
Police detained our loved ones, bullied and intimidated us, and wanted to see our collapse. If there is no God, you will crash. If there is a God, you’ll like this:
An eighty-year-old Christian woman told me: do not be afraid, for they should be [the ones] in fear. If God does not allow it, not a single hair of your husband’s will fall.
What a great faith in God!
Another Christian friend said: If you live in joy and hope, they’ll tremble in their hearts when they see you.
I suppose I cannot see the state of their hearts, I cannot their read minds, but I can try to live in joy, and where there is hope, there is no fear. Yes, no more fear!
Also, do not hate those who did specific evil. Because they know not what they do! [Editor’s note: This is a reference to Luke 23:34] But I know not to be afraid of those who would kill the body, but rather be afraid [of the one] who destroys the soul. [Editor’s note: This is a reference to Matt. 20:28] Hope that evil hands give up their ways now, do not wait until they face God in that day.
This is my truth.
After all, the clothes on your body and the wages in your hands are all the fruits of the people’s labor. But now, you are harming the people’s flesh and blood.
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