Looking for Her Husband on Foot—The Tough Path of Li Wenzu’s Safeguarding Rights Activity

Li Wenzu Looking for Her Husband on Foot

On July 9th, 2015, China started to question, assault, and arrest human rights lawyers and activists nationwide. It was called “709 Crackdown” by media. Today, we will introduce the heroic wife – Li Wenzu’s latest story: Looking for her husband on foot!

Li Wenzu and friends arrived in Tianjin

Li Wenzu and friends arrived in Tianjin

About 248 lawyers and activists were involved in the crackdown. The Chinese media controlled by the government called them “a major criminal gang” “troublemakers”. They were taken away from their families and friends with no messages left behind. Their families were also not allowed to contact with them during the custody.

In about a year after the crackdown, some people were released. Eventually, there were dozens of people were officially considered “guilty”. Some of them were sentenced to prison from 6 months to 7 years. Some of them were on probation or bailed out conditionally.

However, Li Wenzu’s Husband Wang Quanzhang was a different one. After a short notice of him being arrested, Wang Quanzhang was like vanished into a black hole. Now almost three years passed, there still wasn’t any news about Wang Quanzhang’s whereabouts.

A Thousand Days

April 4th, 2018 was the 999 days after Wang Quanzhang being arrested by the authorities. His wife Li Wenzu’ still hadn’t heard anything about him.

She made a bold decision—Walking on foot to Second Intermediate People’s Court of Tianjin from Beijing to look for her husband.

“China always says, rule by law. Now I want the law to give us justice.” Li Wenzu looked pale but standing firm when she said it to the journalists. On a family picture released by media a few years ago, Li Wenzu and Wang Quanzhang smiled at the camera. Li Wenzu looked like a happy wife and mother. Three year’s rights safeguarding made her not only wife and mother but a fighter.

A French newspaper reported this activity. It said, “This action was very dangerous in China. She might be charged for disturbing public orders.” A friend of Li Wenzu’s walked with her to show support. However, the friend’s lawyer husband got a phone call to tell them not to do it. They chose to stay with Li Wenzu.

Wang Quanzhang was the only one, throughout the 709 Crackdown, hasn’t been trialed yet. He was also not allowed to have a lawyer or meet his family. Wang Quanzhang disappeared on July 10th, 2015. Later, people learned that he tried to hide from the police first. Then he was arrested in Shandong at the beginning of August. He was put under house arrest for 6 months. On January 2016, Wang Quanzhang was officially arrested for the crime of subversion. However, the materials about him were returned to the investigators for lack of critical ones. Wang Quanzhang was also secretly kept in custody until now.

During these three years, Li Wenzu visited Tianjin City (where her husband is kept in custody) once or twice every month. From one office to another, she still cannot find any information about her husband. She was treated rudely for countless times. The police monitored her. They even assaulted her home in Beijing and threatened her. She told the Agence France Presse that her husband might already have experienced some really bad things in the jail. That was why the authorities didn’t say anything to people.

A Hard Bone

Li Wenzu's day 11 in the jail the police did not let her meet her lawyer

Li Wenzu’s day 11 in the jail the police did not let her meet her lawyer

Among most of the lawyers and activities who were arrested during the 709 Crackdown, Wang Quanzhang was the only one who was still kept in custody secretly. Some people were trialed and sentenced to prison for a different length of time. Some of them were released or under monitoring. There were rumors said that the force tortured the lawyers until they agreed to admit that they were “wrong” or “guilty”.

That was what Li Wenzu worried the most. She knew her husband was a “hard bone” (Chinese slang, which means people who don’t give in easily). The supporters also believed that the reason why Wang Quanzhang still wasn’t free was that he was still trying to fight back.

“I think my husband refused to give in. They (authorities) can’t close his case.” Said Li Wenzu in the interview with BBC.

This wasn’t the first time that Wang Quanzhang facing pressures from the authorities. Before he went missing, he told the media about him being beaten up by the force in a basement. Even under this situation, he still didn’t give up what he was doing.

Li Wenzu was “Missing” at the Sixth Day of Her Walk

In the morning of April 9th, 2018, the sixth day of Li Wenzu’s journey looking for her husband, she was kidnapped by a group of so-called “Tianjin Homeland Security Agents” to the Douzhangzhuang Police Station in Tianjin city. One day later after she was released, Li Wenzu was forced to go back to her apartment in Beijing. She was also placed under monitor since then. “Looking for husband on foot” activity was put to an end.

Li Wenzu told some foreign media about her experience of being kidnapped.

“About 10:55 in the morning, we (Li Wenzu and her friend) were going to the hotel lobby to check out. Suddenly a gang of people rushed into the lobby. And they surrounded us. One of them shouted, “control the cellphone!” Then both of our cellphones were taken away by them. Later I learned that the man who said it was Liu Yajun, the chief of Tianjian Homeland Security Agents.”

“I only recorded for 4 seconds before they took away my cellphone. Then, one man and another woman grabbed my arms with Liu Yajun pushing my back. In only one minute I was thrown into a car parked outside the hotel.”

“They took me to the police station of Wuqing Douzhangzhuang. In a small meeting room, I was asked to sit at an oval table with another four men and one woman. They were watching me.”

Liu Yajun called it “negotiation”. He said that they (the homeland security agents) never had a chance to talk to her. They took her (Li Wenzu) here for “negotiation”.

The female police who took Li Wenzu's phone by force

The female police who took Li Wenzu’s phone by force

Li Wenzu questioned them right away, “This is how you negotiate with people? Dozens of people kidnapped me to the police station?” Liu Yajun tried to deny that their action was “kidnapping”. He insisted that they only wanted to “negotiate”.

“They took my husband away for more than a thousand days. I don’t even know whether he is still alive or not. As his wife, I walked outside to look for him. Was there anything wrong with it?” Li Wenzu said it angrily.
The gang didn’t talk to her much. Later, they sent someone “who was in charge” to talk to Li Wenzu. When Li Wenzu asked for seeing his badge, he just gave her a quick look. “Looked like someone named Sheng Bin from the Tianjin Police Station.” Li Wenzu said.

Sheng Bin said he was the one who took charge of the 709 case. He asked Li Wenzu what exactly she wanted from them. Even though Li Wenzu thought it was ridiculous to explain her proper appeal to the force, she still listed three requests. First, she required for allowing Wang Quanzhang meet the lawyer his family hired for him. Second, Li Wenzu requested to meet the judge with Wang Quanzhang’s lawyer. Third, if Wang was guilty, sentence him penalty; if Wang was innocent, release him at once.

But Sheng Bin was like Liu Yajun. He still can’t give Li Wenzu a clear answer. “I was forced to listen to those words I have heard thousands of times from the government.” Li Wenzu said in her narrative.

At 4 pm, the security people suggested sending Li Wenzu back to Beijing. She rejected. “It’s my freedom to go wherever I want and do whatever I want. The police shouldn’t decide anything on my behalf.”

After arguing for 30 minutes, Li Wenzu finally left the Douzhangzhuang Police Station with two friends of hers. She was picked up by another four friends later.

Li Wenzu thought she could continue the work with the protection of several friends. What she didn’t expect was that she was sent back to Beijing the next day, April 10th.

Li Wenzu told the RFA.org during the interview about her experience on April 10th. “I wouldn’t have worked with them (the homeland security agents) if they didn’t force to send me back. I would continue my walk.”

“Then they came. Dozens of homeland security agents pulled us off the sidewalk. We had to leave with them. One security agent sent me all the way to my apartment unit. My housekeeper told me she saw a car parked in front of the building with a person sitting in it. I just looked out of my window and I saw almost 20 people were sitting somewhere outside. They were homeland security agents and staffs from the neighborhood committee.”

Li Wenzu thought it was ridiculous that the authorities tried to stop her walk. And she emphasized that even she was stopped this time, she won’t give up on looking for her husband.

“It was hilarious and ridiculous. Just a few women walked around. The government sent out so many people to stop it. I can’t even tell how many of them were there yesterday. Probably all the attention from the society made them nervous. So, I am grateful for all the attention. We will keep fighting until Wang Quanzhang getting his freedom and coming home again.”

Liu Ermin, the lady who walked with Li Wenzu was taken to Hebei Province by the security agents. Her husband, lawyer Zhai Yanmin was also taken to Hebei for supplying Li Wenzu and her friends. When Liu Ermin was interviewed by the RFA.org, they were put under house arrest in a vacation village in Hebei Province. She was involved in an argument with the police officers on the way there. Her glasses were knocked off to the ground.

“They took Li Wenzu and Li Qiaoling (another 709 crackdown victim’s wife) home. Then they took me here (the vacation village in Hebei). There were 5 or 6 people watching over me in the village. I didn’t want to talk to them on the way there. We got into an argument and he (one of the security agents) knocked me off and broke my glasses. My eyes still hurt.”

The Twelfth Day of Li Wenzu’s Journey Looking for Husband

April 19th, 2018, the 12th day of Li Wenzu’s journey, she went to the Tianjin Detention House with Wang Qiaoling, Liu Ermin, and Yuan

Li Wenzu was poisoned at home friends were beaten for seeing her

Li Wenzu was poisoned at home friends were beaten for seeing her

Shanshan, along with two lawyers Lin Qilei and Xie Yang, trying to meet Wang Quanzhang. But they were rejected by the detention house.

April 20th, the squad went to Tianjin Second Intermediate People’s Court again. They requested to submit more materials regarding the case and meet the judge, Zhou Hong. The clerk of the court rejected their requests rudely. The court even had the armed police watching over them while they were staying in the building.

“We were extremely upset. But there was nothing we could do. We could only stand outside the court and shout out the judges’ names. The court soon closed their gate, pretending not to hear our voices. They tried to shut out the voices seeking justice. So they could pretend to believe the lie of ‘justice for all’”.

Walk with Li Wenzu

Many people showed their support to Li Wenzu when they learned about her story. They offered themselves to walk with her. However, Li Wenzu kindly turned them off. She didn’t want innocent people to get involved if she got into trouble. Just as she expected, there were secret agents following her from day 1 of the walk.

Chen Guangcheng is an individual commentator of RFA.org. He wrote an article “Walk with Li Wenzu”. In the article, he said Li Wenzu’s experience was very similar to him being kidnapped from Beijing to his hometown in Shandong Province 10 years ago.

“They tried to fight me for 7 years. But this time, they only lasted two days. I think the technology and internet help big time. Videos and pictures were uploaded online in no time and the internet spreads them fast. It is harder and harder for the government to hide their evil-doing.”

Chen Guangcheng appealed in his article that people use to take advantage of the internet, paying attention to Wang Quanzhang’s case. Hopefully, the family will be back together very soon.

Article Name
Looking for Her Husband on Foot—The Tough Path of Li Wenzu’s Safeguarding Rights Activity
On July 9th, 2015, China started to question, assault, and arrest human rights lawyers and activists nationwide. It was called “709 Crackdown” by media. Today, we will introduce the heroic wife - Li Wenzu's latest story: Looking for her husband on foot!
0 replies

Leave a Reply

Want to join the discussion?
Feel free to contribute!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *