|Photo: L-R: Bob Fu, Zhang Kai
assistant to then-Speaker of the
House Nancy Pelosi, pose for a
photo. Zhang was part of a
China Aid hosted
in Washington, D.C.
(Source: China Aid)
Translated by Carolyn Song. Edited in English by Ava Collins.
(Beijing—Oct. 19, 2015) The sister of notable human rights lawyer Zhang Kai has released her account of a forcible search of his house by authorities early Saturday morning.
Zhang Yan received a call from her sister-in-law on the evening of Oct. 16 saying that authorities were attempting to search Zhang Kai’s home. Zhang Yan reported the events of the search in her own words on Weibo, a Chinese social media website. Her account is translated below.
Early this morning, my brother Zhang Kai’s house was forcibly searched. The situation was panicky and frightening, so I am recording it now so that I do not forget things.
On the night of Oct. 16, just before midnight, I had just fallen asleep after putting my child to bed when the phone rang suddenly. My sister-in-law was calling to say Wenzhou police were going to search her home and asked me if I had a key to open the door.
During the call, another woman took the phone and said: “If you have the key, come open the door, otherwise we will break it down.”
I was confused by what I was hearing, and my baby woke and began crying. I told them that I would call back after seeing to my crying child. My first thought was that my sister-in-law was resisting the search. The second was the need to figure out who these people were.
About five minutes I called my sister-in-law back, but the other woman who answered! I asked: “May I know your identity, please? I would like to know what happened.”
Her response to me was short and direct. “Don’t you know what happened? Do not talk nonsense if you have no key!”
I told her I did not have the key, but it was certainly inappropriate for them to break in. My sister-in-law took the phone and said that if we could not give them a key, they would certainly break in. Then, the woman said, “Hang up! Cut the crap!”
I tried to call back repeatedly, but I could not get through. I thought that if they were really going to search, having only my sister-in-law there with them was not safe. I had to go. Also, I wanted to see what they would find.
I drove in a rush to my brother’s home. On the way I called 110, since I did not know who these people were and asked the police to go to my brother’s house. I arrived at about half past midnight, went upstairs to the front door, and found that police had already been there. But no one was around.
About two minutes later, the elevator came up with four or five men in plainclothes. I explained the situation and asked them to present identification. One did. They talked in a Wenzhou dialect, which I could not understand.
Two minutes later, a woman came upstairs with my sister-in-law and two male plainclothes officers. My sister-in-law was falling to pieces, so I went to stand with her. I heard the policewoman say: “Take out the key! We don’t have to do this the hard way, but we will break down the door if you don’t get the key!”
Around the same time, they called the locksmith. I immediately came up and asked: “Do you have any documents? I want to see a search warrant.”
The policewoman pointed at me angrily, with less than an inch of space between her fingertip and my eyes. “This has less than half a dime to do with you! Shut up!”
I said: “This is my brother’s house. Of course your search has something to do with me.”
She replied: “His spouse is here; why would you be needed? Learn something about the law before you open your mouth. If you dare take half a step into that house, I will detain you for impeding law enforcement. Get out of here!”
I said: “Where did you get this attitude? Don’t you see she is not feeling well and wants me to stay?” My sister-in-law said nobody had shown her any documents, and she wanted me to accompany her. The policewoman then presented an ID to her, but not to me.
Ultimately, my poor sister-in-law took out the keys and opened the door. The police immediately went to take pictures and began searching bookcases, wardrobe, old computers, old USB drives, an old phone, CDs—even the children’s picture books and sleeping bags under bed. They turned everything over!
During the search, the policewoman continued to speak with me as she had before. Cynically, she said: “Dear me, I heard that you married a soldier and trained his older brother to instill obedience!” From her tone, I believe she despised the military and did not respect their dependents.
I retorted: “Obedient like you, blindly following the Party?”
That made her angry. “You’re as much a trouble as your brother!”
I really did not care for her after that.
She added: “Your family is so uncivilized! Just look at what you post on Internet. Don’t you know it’s disgraceful? Aren’t you embarrassed, a woman of your education, shaming the Zhang family by shouting arguments in the hall late at night?”
I said back: “My brother stands for justice. There is nothing for me to be ashamed of. I don’t think he’s guilty!”
One of the male officers from Beijing joined our conversation then. “Ah, you don’t think your brother did anything wrong.”
I said: “If you don’t think he did everything right, then you tell me what he did wrong.”
Rather than answering, each of them put their hands on their waist and went back to walking around. During the process of searching, I also overheard this male officer muttering to the other quietly. “Zhang Kai, I do not know him, but I’ve heard this is a very powerful man. I can tell he’s not simple from what’s on the Internet!”
They kept searching until 4:30 a.m., continuing to whisper in their Wenzhou dialect, which I could not understand. Ultimately, what they confiscated was: an old laptop, a desktop computer host, several USB drives (some brand new, still sealed in packages), a notebook that was not used by my brother, an English book, a new notebook from Pastor Huang Yizi, several old phones, four discs of which I do not know the contents (as they would not let me check inside), and three music CDs.
When they were finishing their search, the Wenzhou policewoman and the Beijing policeman were muttering together for some time. After a while, the Beijing policeman said to me: “Where do you live? Which institute are you in?”
I asked if this related to the case, and the policewoman gave a faint smile. “If you do not want to talk here, you will be invited to talk there, at the police station. I see you don’t want to make this easy!”
The male police informed me: “Tomorrow afternoon you need to go to the police station to answer some questions.”
I asked what the case had to do with me and why I was going. The policewoman said: “Did you not just say you and your brother are close? Now that we’ve finished with Zhang Kai, it’s time to interrogate his family.”
I asked if they had any procedures or notifications for this. The Beijing policeman said: “Yes, you cooperate as asked, and if you want procedures, we will send a notice of the summons to your institute!”
I think, first of all, that this was nothing but retaliation against me, an interim decision made right there. Secondly, they were threatening me! Here I would ask the leaders of the Public Security Bureau of Wenzhou: Did you give permission to this female subordinate to summon Zhang Kai’s sister? Can she and that Beijing policeman summon a citizen like this?
October 17, 2015
After posting her account of these events, Zhang Yan received a text from the local public security bureau, saying they would reschedule her interrogation for a later time.