By Zhao Sile, published: October 12, 2015
“It’s hard to find a word better than ‘terrorism’ to describe the evil way that systematic violence is being used to turn a juvenile into a hostage.”
Bao Zhuoxuan (包卓轩), who goes by the nickname Mengmeng (包蒙蒙), is a 16-year-old who wants to study law when he gets older. They say he’s tall for his age, but he still has a boyish face and is a bit of a “mama’s boy.” In the eyes of the Chinese state, however, he’s known simply as “hostage.”
Late on the night of July 8, 2015, Bao Mengmeng and his father, human rights activist Bao Longjun (包龙军), went to Beijing Capital Airport on their way to Australia, where Mengmeng was preparing to continue high school. His mother Wang Yu (王宇), a human rights lawyer, went to the airport to see the two of them off. That was the last time Mengmeng saw his mother.
Wang Yu was last in touch with Bao Longjun and Mengmeng just after 1 a.m. on July 9. At 4:17 a.m., Wang Yu sent a message to a friend saying that the electricity and Internet at her home had both been cut and that someone was attempting to pry her door open. That was the last time Wang Yu made contact with the outside world.
The sweeping arrests of lawyers formally began a day later. In all, 288 lawyers, legal assistants, and human rights defenders were brought in for police questioning, of whom more than 20 were charged with crimes like inciting subversion, endangering state security, or provoking a serious disturbance. None has been granted access to a lawyer, and their whereabouts still remain unknown. Before they’ve even been tried by a court, several state media outlets began publishing accounts describing them as criminals. This is what the world has come to refer to as the “July 9 Mass Detention of Lawyers.”
After two days in custody, Bao Mengmeng was sent to Inner Mongolia to live with his maternal grandmother. His passport was confiscated, and police announced four things he was prohibited from doing: hiring a lawyer, contacting the foreign media, making contact with people trying to help his parents, and going to study overseas. Bao Mengmeng later said in an interview with Hong Kong media: “I’m suffering, but I’m not afraid.”
On October 9, as Wang Yu and Bao Longjun marked their 100th day in detention, news emerged that Bao Mengmeng had disappeared in Burma. The Hong Kong-based China Human Rights Lawyers Concern Group said that Mengmeng and his traveling companions, human rights activists Tang Zhishun (唐志顺) and Xing Qingxian (幸清贤), were all taken away from Room 8348 of the Huadu Hotel in the Burmese city of Mong La on October 6. The owner of the hotel said that around a dozen people came to the hotel, showed their Burmese police identification, and searched the room before taking three people away. On October 7, friends and lawyers went to make inquiries at the local police station, where they were told that the police had not taken anyone into custody. Afterwards, they went to make inquiries with the local legal authorities, but there was still no news of the three. At 11 p.m. on October 8, police officers from the Chengdu Public Security Bureau carried out a search of Xing Qingxian’s Chengdu home in association with police from the Xing’an, Inner Mongolia, where Mengmeng’s grandmother lives. In the course of their search, police gave verbal notice that they had taken Bao Mengmeng into custody.
A person familiar with Bao Mengmeng’s situation said: “Bao Zhuoxuan could no longer endure the way that the secret domestic-security police used long-term and continual harassment, intimidation, and mind control (including towards family members). He took advantage of the extended National Day holiday to evade police control and wanted to go via Burma to continue his studies overseas. The loss of contact probably means that those who had been monitoring him became aware of his disappearance, and that means that he is most likely in the hands of the police in Ulanhot, Inner Mongolia.”
Bao Mengmeng is only a 16-year-old teenager. The only reason why he would become the target of this type of “cross-border arrest” is because he’s the son of political prisoners. As such, he can be locked up and used as a hostage to “negotiate” with Wang Yu and Bao Longjun. Outside China, he’s likely to become a focus of the international media. His existence is a lasting indictment of the Chinese human rights situation. It’s hard to find a word better than “terrorism” to describe the evil way that systematic violence is being used to turn a juvenile into a hostage. The Chinese and Burmese governments have come together to carry out this truly international act of terrorism.
More Details Emerge About the Disappearance of Three Chinese Citizens in Myanmar, China Change, Oct. 11, 2015.
Bao Zhuoxuan, Son of Detained Rights Lawyer, Is Said to Disappear in Myanmar, the New York Times, Oct. 9, 2015.
Detained Chinese lawyer’s 16-year-old son disappears while trying to flee to US, the Guardian, Oct. 10, 2015.
68 Chinese Lawyers Make Urgent Statement on Disappearance of Bao Zhuoxuan and Two Others in Myanmar, China Change, Oct. 11, 2015.