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Yaxue Cao, October 15, 2018
On the morning of October 11, Ms. Pu Wenqing (蒲文清) arrived in Beijing accompanied by a couple of supporters. Ms. Pu is 85 years old, a retired doctor living in Neijiang, Sichuan province (四川内江市). As soon as she stepped off the train at Beijing West Railway Station, she spotted six people who had followed her all the way from Sichuan. In China, they are known as “jie fang renyuan” (截访人员), or local government workers whose job is to trail, stop and take back to their hometown petitioners who have gone to the capital on a quest for justice.
That is what brought Ms. Pu to Beijing –she was seeking justice for her son. With the help of activists, Ms. Pu got rid of her minders, but they kept texting her demanding to know her whereabouts.
In the afternoon, she went to the Ministry of Public Security and stood in line, along the gray wall encircling the Ministry’s compound, to submit documents detailing how the case against her son was a miscarriage of justice. Then she went to the Supreme People’s Procuratorate and did the same.
Ms. Pu’s son Huang Qi (黄琦) is a renowned human rights activist who runs the website 64tianwang.com (六四天网) which reports human rights violations and social injustices. This is not the first time the 55-year-old Huang was in jail. An electronics engineer by training, he founded the 64tianwang website in 1999. He was arrested in 2000 for his human rights activities and sentenced to five years in prison. Following the Wenchuan earthquake in May, 2008, Huang Qi worked to provide humanitarian assistance to victims and at the same time wrote articles exposing shoddily constructed school buildings that killed thousands of children. In June 2008, he was arrested again for “illegally possessing state secrets” and later sentenced to three years in jail.
This time around, Huang Qi was arrested on November 28, 2016, for allegedly “illegally providing state secrets to overseas.”
The incident that led to the arrest of Huang Qi, Yang Xiuxiong (杨秀琼) and Chen Tianmao (陈天茂), ostensibly anyway, went like this: in early April 2016, at the office of a Neighborhood Committee in Youxian District, Mianyang city (绵阳市游仙区), a low-level communist cadre showed Chen a report by the Party’s Political and Legal Committee about Chen’s petition, and asked him to photograph it. Yang Xiuqiong passed on the information to Huang Qi. In April, Huang Qi ran an article on his website citing what that document says about the authorities’ “plans to crackdown on 64tianwang and Huang Qi.”
Such are the ‘state secrets’ and how they were ‘provided’ to overseas — the server of the website is overseas to prevent government hacking.
The ‘top secret’ document, as Ms. Pu would point out over and over again, has no red official heading; contains no label of ‘Secret’, no official markings or document codes, and no signature or date. “They fabricated this document to frame Huang Qi and jail him,” she said.
The same night the police took her son, a swarm of 20 plus policemen also came to Ms. Pu’s home, literally carried her off and shoved her into a car that took her first to the rural guesthouse and later to the 15th floor of Neijiang People’s Hospital where she had worked as a doctor of internal medicine until 1991. About ten people watched her in three shifts, 24/7, for nineteen days. They told other patients that she was a ‘political prisoner’ so that no one would dare to talk to her. When she was released nineteen days later, she found that her doorway was fitted with surveillance cameras and she had to get a locksmith to open her sabotaged door lock. Every time she came back from outside, someone would poke in to see who else was with her. One evening she sneaked out of her apartment in the dark and stayed the night with a friend. The next morning she got into a taxi and went into hiding in Chengdu, the provincial capital.
She hired two human rights lawyers for her son.
For eight months, lawyers were denied permission to meet with Huang Qi. Police told them that Huang’s case was a special one overseen by a special team; they were the ones who decided whether Huang Qi could see his lawyers.
Ms. Pu, anxious about her son’s health and whether he had been mistreated, sent an information request to the Sichuan provincial Department of Public Security and the Mianyang Municipal Bureau of Public Security, but got no answers. She wrote an open letter to Chinese leaders asking for medical parole for her son who suffers from a host of illnesses, including chronic nephritis.
At the end of July, 2017, lawyers finally met with Huang Qi for the first time since his detention eight months ago and learned about grueling interrogations that had lasted long hours and night watch that required Huang Qi to stand on his feet for six hours. At lunch after the meeting, everyone ate, but the mother who had accompanied the lawyers on each of their futile visits sat quietly and didn’t touch the food. She was despondent.
In the fall when the weather turned, she went to Mianyang again to deposit warm clothes and cash for Huang Qi.
On November 6, 2017, when lawyer Sui Muqing met with Huang Qi, the latter told him how two inmates had beaten him.
Ms. Pu couldn’t take it anymore. She embarked on a train all by herself and went to Beijing, where she mailed letters, postcards and documents to the Minister of Public Security, to the Ministry’s office for supervising police enforcement, and to the office that monitors official abuses at the Supreme People’s Procuratorate. She demanded that they correct the abuses and discipline the perpetrators. She met with foreign diplomats for help, pinning her hope on President Donald Trump who was visiting Beijing that week. She gave an interview to Radio Free Asia: “Investigation has concluded with Huang Qi’s case, but an officer continued to interrogate him, illegally, a dozen times and threatened 12-15 years of imprisonment in order to force Huang Qi to confess. Instructed by detention center officials, two inmates beat Huang Qi repeatedly.” Huang Qi was denied treatment, and wasn’t allowed to spend money deposited for him by his mother and supporters – all to break him and force him to admit guilt.
He reportedly told the interrogators that if they forced him, instead of a confession, they would get his dead body.
On January 15, 2018, Huang Qi was indicted by the Mianyang municipal procuratorate. In the months followed, Ms. Pu filed requests with the court in Mianyang and the superior court of the province for an open trial. She supported her son in sueing Tencent – the company that provided Huang Qi’s private communication with Yang Xiuqiong which was used as evidence against both of them. When the CCP Central Committee’s disciplinary team visited Sichuan, she submitted letters to them reporting the misconducts of the police and prosecutors in Sichuan, and asked for the release of her son. She submitted an application for her son’s medical parole to the Mianyang Intermediate Court. On Mother’s Day of this year, she appealed to Chinese leaders to correct the wrongdoings of the local authorities.
By mid-year, the trial neared and still the lawyers were denied permission to see the so-called “top secret documents.” Ms. Pu feared that the authorities, with the intent to keep Huang Qi locked up, would convict Huang Qi without even showing the documents during the hearing. She requested that the Sichuan Public Security re-evaluate the “secret documents.”
The trial, scheduled for June 20, was canceled. By then Huang Qi has been detained for nearly nineteen months without trial, beyond the statutory limitation for pretrial detention.
In late June, Ms. Pu mailed a complaint to China’s Supreme People’s Procuratorate in Beijing refuting the nature of the “secret documents” and asking the body to correct the mistakes of the local judiciary and release her son.
In mid-August, three officials from her former employer Neijiang People’s Hospital visited her. They told her that higher level leaders had asked them to come to check on her.
Scribbling on her cellphone laboriously, she wrote one open letter after another, arguing point by point what a sham the case against Huang Qi was, and how it was a deliberate act to imprison Huang Qi. “How is a petitioner’s letter to the government a top national secret?” She asked. “If the neighborhood director who had given the document to Chen Tianmao is still going to work every day and wasn’t charged with leaking secrets, how are those who received the document ‘leaking secrets?’”
It is indeed a deliberate act, and it is part of a broader campaign to wipe out rights advocacy websites in China. In June 16, 2016, Lu Yuyu (卢昱宇) and Li Tingyu (李婷玉) were arrested in Dali, Yunnan. They ran the 非新闻 (Non-News) website that searched, collated, and published information about mass protests across China. Lu has since been sentenced to four years in prison on charges of “picking quarrels and stirring up trouble.” In Suizhou, Hubei, Liu Feiyue, the founder and editor of minsheng guancha, or Civil Rights & Livelihood Watch, was arrested in November, 2016. He was tried in August for “inciting subversion of state power” after 20 months in detention. No verdict has been delivered. Also in November, 2016, citizen journalist Sun Lin (孙林), known for videotaping human rights activism, was arrested in Nanjing, and has since been tried and sentenced to four years in prison for “picking quarrels and stirring up trouble” and “illegal possession of firearms.” In September, 2017, Zhen Jianghua (甄江华), the founder and editor of hrcchina.org website, was arrested. He has been denied legal counsel, and recently there were reports that he had been secretly tried.
In late September, lawyer Liu Zhengqing (刘正清) received a reply from the Mianyang Public Security, denying his request for Huang Qi’s medical records. The records, it reads, “do not fall within the scope of free government information.”
On October 8, lawyer Li Jinglin visited Huang Qi and learned that his condition had deteriorated. He suffers pain and swollenness and decreased urination. The detention center has kept the testing results from him. Based on her son’s description, Ms. Pu believes that Huang Qi is showing symptoms of late term uremia which is life threatening without treatment.
On October 9, Ms. Pu, accompanied by lawyer Li, went to see Judge Zhou who presides over Huang Qi’s case. At the entrance, court bailiffs grabbed her arms and prevented her from going in. She shouted, “My son Huang Qi is gravely ill! Give him medical parole!”
On October 11, she came to Beijing again with a renewed urgency.
On October 13, a decision by the prosecutors to bring more charges against Huang Qian was made public. It was mailed to lawyer Liu Zhengqing in Guangzhou via EMS and it was dated September 12. But one can never be sure that was the real date, and if it was, no explanation has been made as why the lawyers were not notified sooner. In addition to charges of “illegally providing national secrets to overseas,” Huang Qi is now also charged with “leaking national secrets.” “Given that Huang Qi is a repeated offender,” the revised indictment says, “he will be subjected to more severe punishment.”
So, what is going on? Instead of addressing the 85-year-old mother’s appeals, the Chinese government has just raised the stake higher for her and for her son.
They won’t release him, and they want to stop her.
Yaxue Cao edits this website. Follow her on Twitter @YaxueCao, or follow China Change @ChinaChange_org.
On the morning of May 13, while visiting a black jail in Ziyang, Sichuan province (四川资阳), seven rights lawyers from Beijing and Chengdu were intercepted, beaten and kidnapped by unidentified men. After that their cellphones ceased to answer.
Upon learning the news of their colleagues’ encounter, four more lawyers went to Ziyang to help. They were first followed by men in plain clothes, and then they too were snatched.
The eleven lawyers are: Jiang Tianyong (江天勇), Tang Jitian (唐吉田), Liang Xiaojun (梁小军), Tang Tianhao (唐天昊), Lin Qilei (蔺其磊), Li Heping (李和平), Zhang Keke (张科科), Guo Haiyue (郭海跃), Wang Cheng (王成), Yang Huiwen (杨慧文) and Wen Haibo (温海波).
Rights lawyer, legal scholar Teng Biao tweeted Monday evening, Beijing time, that several lawyers were hurt. Jiang Tianyong’s legs were hurt by rocks, and Tang Tianhao was bleeding from his head.
By Beijing time Tuesday morning, three lawyers were released and have since returned to Chengdu, the provincial capital, while the whereabouts of the other eight are still unknown. They were taken away around 2 am Tuesday from the police station where they had been held.
According to several other rights lawyers following and reporting the incident online, the black jail has the improbable name of the “Rule of Law Education Center of Ziyang Municipality” (资阳市法制教育中心). From outside, it looks like a resort, but it houses what the authorities called the “rule of law classes” (法制学习班). Some have been jailed there for five or six years, and some were tortured to death. During the last Chinese New Year season, there were as many as 260 people illegally jailed there. (See below for address and telephone numbers of the facility.)
Teng Biao (@滕_彪_) posted on Weibo that “the so-call Rule of Law Education Centers can be found all over China, and they are also known as brainwashing camps, or study class, but they are really concentration camps where torture is used routinely. There are a shocking number of Falungong practitioners, petitioners and others who have been detained in these facilities across China. Lawyers said that more prisoners had been tortured to death in these illegal detention centers than in jails or re-education-through-labor camps. In this particular Center in Ziyang, at least three are known to have died of torture.”
Rule of Law Education Center of Ziyang Municipality 资阳市法制教育中心
Tel: 28-26741799, 28-26332128, 28-2674103
Director Xu Hongyan 徐红艳 Tel: 28-26741031 Cell: 13547291868
Twitter accounts: @tengbiao, @lvshi798; Weibo accounts: @滕_彪_, @李方平律师
Update 1: Cheng Wanyun’s legal name (name on ID) is Cheng Aihua (程爱华).
Update 2: Telephone numbers: PSB State Security Office of Nanchong Municipality (南充市公安局国保办公电话): 0817-2803084. PSB of Xichong County (西充县公安局值班电话): 0817-4200085. State security chief of Xichong PSB Zhao Yanlin (西充县公安局国内安全保卫大队负责人：赵晏林主任): 0817-4202969.
Update 3: Cheng Aihua’s father is willing to speak to the media and the public about his daughter’s case. His home number is 0817-4224168.
Update 4: This is believed to be the post that got her in jail: “This is gonna be fun to watch. All manners of ugly bootlicking to please the emperor. We on the other hand would work harder to seek justice for all who have died in earthquakes, school-bus accidents, floods and brutal abortions.”
Update 5: On Chinese New Year’s Eve, AP managed to write a story that everyone is talking about but no one appears to believe: the mysterious “Study Xi Fan Group” account that has garnered nearly 800,000 fans in less than three months and posted real-time, close-up pictures of XJP is owned by a migrant worker who decorates walls in the city of Wuxi (无锡).
Update 6: Cheng Aihua is freed around noon on Monday, Beijing Time, subversion charge against her being revised to “administrative detention.”
Updates 7: The exact words that landed her in jail: “Where is the sniper? Get him for me!” (“狙击手在哪儿？给老子干掉他！”) Mimicking what XJP might say to his security details, she was poking fun at the mysterious fan who seemed to follow XJP closely wherever Xi goes. The case illustrates how ubiquitous, and efficient, internet surveillance is in China.
According to news found on Tencent Weibo and brought to Twitter, on February 6, activist Cheng Wanyun (程婉芸) in Nanchong, Sichuan (四川南充), was detained shortly after she made a comment under a post by Xi Jinping fan club (http://t.qq.com/txuexifensituan/). Well-known activist Liu Shasha (刘沙沙), who spoke to Cheng shortly after the latter arrived at the police station that evening, confirmed the cause of Cheng’s detention. It’s unclear what exactly her comment is, but she apparently didn’t think it was a big deal at all at the time.
Cheng Wanyun posted the following message in her Tencent account “ensslin之梦” before she went to the police station: “My sister-in-law just called, saying the police came all of a sudden taking away my younger brother and the computer in the store. Because it’s the same computer we use both in the store and at home, I don’t know whether it was because something I had said online. My brother didn’t have his cellphone with him, so I am going to the police station right now to find out. My cellphone number: 13488860702.”
That number has since become unreachable.
Cheng’s father told an “information collector” working for Weiquanwang (维权网) that the family received Notice for Criminal Detention (刑事拘留通知书) on the 7th, and the stated allegation is “inciting to subvert state power.” She is currently detained in Xichang Detention Center (西充看守所) in Nanchong, Sichuan.
The family visited Cheng yesterday, and Cheng merely asked her parents to send a few books to her.
Cheng Wanyun’s mother, a Christian, said she didn’t want to trouble her daughter’s friends; instead, she would wait for God to rescue her.
Veteran activist Hu Jia pointed out on Twitter that, in China, public security on district/ municipality level is not authorized to initiate subversion charges, so charge against Cheng Wanyun had to be recommended by Sichuan provincial Committee of Politics and Law (政法委) and Public Security Department (公安厅), and approved by the Party secretary of Sichuan province (四川省委书记) and State Security Bureau of the Ministry of Public Security (公安部国保局).
There have been no words about legal representation yet. But it is expected to be arranged soon. Meanwhile, the phone number of Xichong Detention Center (四川西充看守所) is: 0817 4229837
Cheng Wanyun is a Christian too, an accountant divorced with a college-going daughter. In 2011, she was detained for months, along with hundreds of others across China during the brutal, wide-spread crackdown on activists whom the government suspected of organizing Jasmine gatherings. She has been very active online, and for a period was a volunteer with the equal education rights campaign in Beijing. Her probation was lifted only a few months ago.
Fellow dissident and activist Hua Ze (华泽) tweeted that “On August 17 and 23, 2012, I interviewed Wanyun for total 4 hours. She recounted what happened to her during the Jasmine crackdown and her participation in defending rights. She’s been in jail twice in less than two years. I’m saddened.”
Over the last few days, Xi Jinping has been inviting “sharp criticism” of the Party and urging the Party to be tolerant. He shouldn’t be surprised that his calls are met with ridicules.
(The XJP fans club link is incorrected; I have corrected it in my post. –Yaxue)
By Yaxue Cao
Components of a He Cha Session
When the state security police descended on these law-biding citizens, often in plain clothes, asking to have a talk with him or her, they didn’t bother to show their ID and did so only reluctantly in some cases when the interrogatee insisted.
Never mind the warrant. There was none.
In one case, the wife of an interrogatee opened the door to find policemen asking her husband to go with them. When she asked why, she was told “it’s inconvenient to say.” When she insisted the police show a warrant, the police said there was no warrant, threatened to use force, adding, “You are in China.”
The security police asked an interrogatee’s name, employer, what websites he or she had visited, who were his or her friends, questions about what he or she did, with whom he or she was associated, especially who “directed” him or her, his or her motivation and purpose. From the questions they asked, it is clear that there aren’t areas where they would not invade.
Answering questions, the interrogatee and the police engaged in a back-and-forth exchange where the police tried to impose themselves, and the interrogatee tries to defend him/herself or evade their questions for self-protection. While each interrogatee handled his or her own situation differently, the state security police emerged to be very similar in the narrative they tried to impose and the threats they made:
- Stability is all, turmoil is bad for everyone, and you have to take into consideration the interests of the nation;
- Democracy is not for China; look at Taiwan, what a mess (the Party was making the most of the brawling scenes seen in Taiwan’s legislative body, but I am sure the Taiwan card can no longer be played now that enough people have seen the latest Taiwanese presidential election with envy and admiration);
- China is doing great; other countries are suffering from economic crises while China has tons of money;
- You have family responsibilities, you have social responsibilities, and what you have done is irresponsible;
- Your thoughts are not normal; these are not things for you to worry about; and you should mind your own business and focus on making money;
- Ai Weiwei is a bad person; he is associated with anti-China forces overseas; he gets awards from them;
- What you are doing is bad for yourself. Do you want to end up in jail? Going forward in life, do you want to have a criminal record?
- You are manipulated by others; others are using you;
- America also has corruption and injustice;
- Activists overseas are all controlled and financed by the US government and their job is to disrupt and sabotage China.
The list can go on depending on what occupies the security police at the moment.
Their ignorance nauseated quite a few of the people they tried to “educate” with the “right thoughts.” In one session, the security police looked blank when the interrogatee mentioned the names of Gandhi, Mandela and Aung San Suu Kyi, and were puzzled by his statement that “government should be locked up in a cage.” In another, the police appeared not to know what Twitter was and asked whether it was the website of the interrogatee.
Most of the security police tried their best to play nice at the beginning. But as the conversation went on and they became frustrated, they would often jump up, smacking the table or huffing at the interrogatee. In one case, several security policemen yelled at the interrogatee, sticking their fingers in his face, “Are you a Chinese or not?”
You are not a Chinese if you are not like them.
In another case, when the interrogatee argued it was his natural right to attend the River Crab Banquet (河蟹大宴), an event to be held in Shanghai by Ai Weiwei in 2010, the police blasted, “Don’t talk about natural rights with me! Here the Communist Party rules!”
At the end of the session, an interrogatee was asked to sign the transcript of the interrogation, authenticating it with his or her finger print.
Without exception, the security police searched computers of the interrogatees.
They looked up search histories and browsing history, downloaded personal files and, in one case, two Japanese pornographic films, which made the interrogatee wonder what it was for: for the policeman himself or for his job?
In some cases, they rummaged through the books an interrogatee had around, questioning why he read certain titles. A policeman turned red when he discovered a book titled On American Democracy. “Where did you get this book?” It was available in bookstores everywhere.
They photocopied IDs and business cards. In a few cases, they took away the computers and didn’t return them until days later.
In one case, they demanded to see, and photocopied, the interrogatee’s bank deposit book.
They didn’t always give the interrogatee a list of the things they took away.
Without exception, they asked the interrogatee to sign a written document, toward the end of the session, guaranteeing he or she would not do certain things. There was always pain and shame on the part of the signees because they had done nothing wrong; but they knew they had to submit, or they would invite more trouble for themselves.
About the inevitability of submission, Wang Lijun (王立军), the former head of Public Security in Chongqing who recently sought asylum in the American Consulate in Chengdu, knows best. “If I am jailed, I will have to say whatever they ask me to say,” he was reported to have told the Americans.
In some cases, they asked the interrogatees to report their activities and whereabouts everyday.
Threats and Insinuations They Made
Needless to say, he cha is all about intimidation, direct and indirect:
- What you have done would have landed you in jail in the past;
- You haven’t broken the law, but you have gone astray, and you are moving toward committing crimes. We are helping you and you should know better;
- If we want to, we can jail you this minute;
- (to a young man who gets paid for his writings for overseas publications and sites) We will see that you receive not a penny!
- (to a man who makes 8-9k a month) It would be a pity if you lose your job for doing what you did;
- Where does your wife work? What’s her name?
- Where do your parents live?
- Who is your landlord? (More often than not, the security police came with this information already and, in more than one case, the landlords were so scared that they quickly drove the tenants away.)
He cha, it appeared, doesn’t involve beating or sustained verbal abuse. That’s because it is the “low end” of the government intimidation and persecution, and depending on how big a threat you are in their perception, things can become much worse. Gu Chuan, an activist and former editor-in-chief of a blog host, was he cha-ed twice, for signing a condolence letter for Zhao Ziyang (赵紫阳) in 2005 and for signing 08 Charter in 2009. And last year during the Jasmine paranoia, he was detained for 63 days and tortured badly.
Responses of the Interrogatees
Some people dealt with their he cha sessions with composure and even playfulness, others left useful advice, such as “be firm and you have done nothing wrong.”
One of them, who was he cha-ed for signing an online appeal to eradicate prison bullying, felt deeply hurt and saddened: “How can they possibly visit me for this? How can they pressure a citizen for expressing himself out of conscience? How can they be so weak?”
One way or another, it is hard to exaggerate the kind of fear he cha can strike into ordinary people. It lays bare the fact that the state has every power over you, is prepared to use it in the most wanton way, while you have no power, no rights, and there is nothing you can do to protect yourself.
A man, who was taken to a police station and questioned about his blog and his signing an appeal against the detention of a Uighur scholar, wrote: “Nervousness aside, I was so frightened to see the two policemen. I kept thinking how will this develop, how should I answer their questions? When they asked about my family, I became more afraid. …
“…If I don’t yield, what will they do to me? Will they simply take me and jail me? Are they going to search my computer? Will they use the pornography in my computer against me?
“The interrogation is over for more than a day now,” he continued, “but I am still deeply upset. …What’s so disconcerting is not so much about the confession I wrote in the station, nor am I fearing for what they may do to me next. What bothers me is not the fear itself, but why I am so fearful. Why am I so fearful for something I believe I did right? Why am I so fearful for the videos and files saved in my computer? Why am I scared by the mere question ‘Do you pay attention to politics?’”
“Never before have I longed for freedom so badly as I do this moment—freedom from fear.”
Since I had the idea of writing a post about he cha a few of weeks ago, I have been paying attention to he cha-related tweets on Twitter. A young man reported being he cha-ed in Sichuan for attempting to travel to the Tibetan areas in northern Sichuan; another, a volunteer translator for a site that translates overseas articles, reported that his editor was he cha-ed for publishing “radical” translations; a man was he cha-ed for posts regarding the water contamination in Zhenjiang; Tibetan writer Woeser was summoned for the Nth time for her writings and tweets; an artist in Beijing was he cha-ed for staging a performance art show in support of the blind lawyer Chen Guangcheng; a young mother was he cha-ed for being one of the organizers of the “Right for Fair Education” movement that seeks access to education for children of migrant workers.
The list can go on and on. I have learned for the first time how widespread he cha is and how much the state security police is watching. It seems that they are watching everywhere and everyone.
Just the other day, three Twitter friends had the following exchange:
A: There are far more ordinary netizens who have had he cha experience than we imagine. Sit at a table with a group of netizens you have never met before, you are bound to find someone who has been he cha-ed. There are all sorts of reasons for it, but none for breaking the law.
B: It’s good to he cha—it improves your sight.
C: The government creates its opponents through he cha.
All three of them have had he cha experience, perhaps more than once, and they know.
I, for one, am glad people shared their he cha experiences and made it public. When the security police, without exception, threaten, or coax you not to tell, you know you must tell, and to tell is the only weapon you’ve got.
This article was written by a Chinese friend in Chengdu who is passionate about the protection of animals.
The first time I heard about the House of Love (爱之家, aizhijia) was on Christmas Day, 2008. I was giving a lecture on animal rights in western countries during my last period of the semester. One of the students came to me after class, saying she had been a volunteer for the House of Love for a long time. “Visit our blog, or come to visit us when you are free,” she said.
So I did. I searched their blog on line and was totally surprised that there was a private animal shelter right here in Chengdu. I called Chen Yunlian, owner of the shelter to verify her story. 10 minutes later I decided to donate 1000 yuan. Ever since then, I have been a part of the animal shelter.
Chen’s story is sort of legendary. During the 1990s, she had made herself one of the few prominent successful businesswomen in Chengdu. However, her life was totally altered in 1997, when she found a seriously wounded dog in a garbage can. A natural born humanitarian, the millionaire rescued the dying dog. Ever since then, she started to rescue more and more homeless dogs and cats with her friend Wang Xiaohong. The House of Love was founded.
Gradually, the animals became an overwhelming burden on her shoulders. She had to quit her business to take care of the animals. What was worse, the expenditure of running the shelter had drained almost all her resources within a few years. Chen has always been a tough and independent woman. She struggled desperately for the next meal to feed her family, as well as hundreds of dogs and cats. The only thing she had then was an empty apartment that she called home.
Chen was cornered into despair. Years later, she told me that when some people heard her story and visited her, for the first time in her life, she asked for help. “Please help me,” she whispered. Then she turned her head, trembling and weeping in silence.
Volunteers put her story online, so more and more people learnt about it. Everyday volunteers came to help with the chores: animal rescuing, nursing, grooming, house keeping, etc. People donated money, clothes, medical supplies, food and even washing machines. With the money, Chen leased a separate house in the suburbs and hired 8 employees for the animal shelter. Meanwhile, more dogs and cats had been sent to the House of Love. The pressure of keeping the house running has never been relieved.
Chen never said no to homeless animals. She believes that every life matters. In the House of Love, handicapped animals were everywhere. Most of them were seriously deformed by human beings. Another great number of handicapped animals were rescued during the earthquake in 2008, for which Chen was severely criticized for rescuing animals “at the critical moment of life and death”. She also lost a great amount of support from overseas. Some western organizations believe euthanasia is the solution for unwanted animals. Chen refused to do it, determined to make her own way of animal rescuing.
In recent years, other troubles followed her as the House of Love drew more public attention. In 2009, some “netizens” dropped in on the House of Love, accusing Chen of stealing public donations. According to their accusation, they were “tipped off” by someone in Chen’s bank, and they found margins between public donations and expenditures. Local media were all over it, and a demand to publish Chen’s personal account was made. When she called me about it, she sounded wronged and indignant, “I have spent my life savings on the animals. Now they accused me of stealing from them!”
To make things worse, the incident exposed the illegal existence of the animal shelter. By law a charity in China must keep the accounts open, which means inflows and outflows must be published. Chen couldn’t make the House of Love a legally registered organization because of a stupid local regulation that there could be only one animal shelter in Sichuan (Tom’s note: Sichuan is slightly larger that California, and is more than twice as populous), which was registered by another charity Qiming. Being illegal, Chen couldn’t keep a public account, so donations went into her personal account.
When everything was reported and even distorted in the media, the integrity of the animal shelter was seriously jeopardized. Donations dropped off greatly despite Chen’s explanation. Publishing her personal account didn’t help either. Local villagers complained about the noise and hygienic problems and threatened to attack the house. The local government was pissed off too. For them the very existence of the shelter meant trouble.
Nevertheless, months of PR work and debate in the media resolved the crisis with a happy ending. The local government reluctantly “made an exception” for the House of Love and it’s now housing more than a thousand dogs and cats. The animal shelter was recognized, and the government helped Chen to rent a lot of approximately 10 acres, which would serve as a permanent home for the animals.
Chen needed more money for the construction. She went to the media and attended various activities. More and more people learned of the House of Love and offered various help. On December 3rd, 2011, the House of Love was moved into the new home with the help of 15 employees and countless volunteers. For this day, Chen had fought for more than 15 years.
People sometimes criticize Chen for her aggressive protection of the animals. Many times I have seen her fight against people who killed or maltreated animals. She was always ready to kick their asses and grab the creature in her arms, with or without help, sometimes even in front of a video camera. She was so fearless and tough that anyone in her presence would feel intimidated. Who would have thought that this woman is already in her sixties?
In October 2011, volunteers were tipped off that in Zigong more than 1000 dogs were to be shipped and killed as food. The House of Love and Qiming organized volunteers to rescue the animals. Negotiating with the owners was tough, but winning back the lives was worth the effort and money (full story from Shanghaiist w/photos). Again the public learned of the incident, and debates on animal rights were held on a larger scale. For Chen, it was just another successful rescue, but for the House of Love, it meant hundreds of new mouths to feed.
Every time I exchanged text messages with Chen, I always asked her to take care of herself before she takes care of the animals. “When there is no more hurting, trading and killing, that’s when I may rest in peace,” she answers.
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The year of the dragon began with the news that armed police were firing on protesters in Tibetan areas in Northern Sichuan. On Weibo, a netizen said he spotted a sniper on the roof of Jokhang Monastery (大昭寺) in Lhasa, Tibet; another expressed surprise at seeing “so many armed police” on streets of the same city who demanded her to delete pictures she took of them; and many more described seeing military vehicles full of soldiers moving on highways in Western and Northern Sichuan. Otherwise, there isn’t much talk about Tibetans, either the self-immolations or the violence, on Weibo due to censorship. On Twitter however, the news as well as the talks came in steadily from all directions. In this issue, I have several items on the subject and something else. Click date below item for link to the original.
As part of the “appreciation education” (感恩教育, where Tibetans must learn to appreciate the Party), the government has been campaigning to get a million national flags and leader-portraits into villages and temples:
- 贺延光/He Yanguang/(Photographer with China Youth Daily)/: My thoughts on flags and leader-portraits entering villages and temples: In the photo below that I took, Tibetans were on their knees worshiping Buddha, and behind the Buddha are leader-portraits. I saw this before in Syria where portraits of President Bashar al-Assad hung in Christian churches. Dictators thus occupy religious sites and we saw a lot of it during the Cultural Revolution. It is a farce and more, it is an offense.
- 1984to1776/(netizen)/: Force Tibetans to hang portraits of dead people, force Uighurs to shave off their beard, force Cantonese to speak Mandarin, and call Hong Kongers sons of bitches. Don’t you think a country like this should just disintegrate?
26 Jan via web
The following two items are from Woeser, a Tibetan writer living in Beijing. She tweets everything about Tibetans and Tibet, and has recently been summoned several times by the state security police to “have tea.” The last “tea appointment” occurred earlier this week:
- degewa唯色 /Woeser/: The tea is over. “Called to have tea” three times—one after another—in recent days. I was asked to stop talking. No interview by media, etc. Yes, it’s all about Tibetans’ self-immolation or being killed, etc.
25 Jan via web
- Every time after “having tea,” I feel like the person in this picture who screams and whose hands cover the ears and there are those two, behind….
25 Jan via web
- hesuoge（游精佑）/You Jingyou/(railway engineer and activist in Fuzhou)/: I was at my brother’s home this evening. We drank and I chatted with two clueless young men. The first item in CCTV’s Evening News (新闻联播) is about a Tibetan child who was treated for free for congenital heart disease. Then I told the two about Tibetan protesters storming police stations, self-immolations, and leader-portraits. They were very surprised to hear what I said.
Growing up in China in the 70s, we were fed with narratives where a noble “selflessness” was pitched against a human’s natural instinct and common sense. A lot of those stories later were revealed to be fabrication. When I saw the following item, I was like: They are still hard at this?
- remonwangxt变态辣椒 /rebel pepper/(well-known online cartoon satirist)/: Liu Yulian is a medical doctor who appeared on this year’s CCTV New Year gala as a national model for goodness. She might be a good doctor for patients, but for her own family, she is a criminal! When her first daughter was 11-months old, she tied the infant to a bed because she had to see patients and couldn’t take care of the baby. Later the baby died. With her second child, she did the same thing and tied her to a bed from when the child was 5 or 6-months old all the way to two years old, and once the child almost died of a 40° fever. What is the meaning of promoting a role model like this?
Finally, a guy’s quiet musing during the New Year holidays:
- If the American troops invade us, they should begin to land around midnight on the fourth day of the Chinese New Year. It’s a time when all you hear are firecrackers blasting off. Who would know a war is breaking out?