On April 7, at 12:40 pm, Bo Fu, PhD, president of ChinaAid, welcomed Shi Minglei (2nd from right) and her 5-year-old daughter—Doudou (3rd from right) at Midland International Air and Space Port Airport, Texas. Ms. Shi, wife of Cheng Yuan, one of three imprisoned staffers of Hunan Changsha NGO—wrote the following letter on April 9:
Cheng Yuan’s wife and daughter are free….
My daughter and I got out of the darkness right after Easter. Thanks to God’s grace, the US Department of State, the US Embassy, and ChinaAid for bringing my 5-year-old daughter and me to the country of freedom and light—the United States of America!
While lights of the city came on this Lunar New Year’s Eve, after debating for a long time, I decided to leave [China] with my daughter. [As] we embarked on the long journey and left our hometown, it [was] not easy to travel during the pandemic. [With] one hurdle after another, we felt lonely, fearful. [We suffered].
The moment we got out of the Chinese territory, we felt both upset and excited and could not help crying. “Weeping may stay for the night,” however, “but rejoicing comes in the morning.” Today [April 7] we eventually arrived in the US.
April 7 marks 628 days that my husband—Cheng Yuan with his two coworkers, Liu Dazhi and Wuge Jianxiong, have been detained without evidence. In the past 628 days, these Changsha NGO three staffers, my daughter, and I have experienced the Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP’s) secret police’s (beyond imagination) threats and persecution.
During the past 10 years, my husband, one of Changsha Funeng’s NGO staff, advocated for human rights and fought for the rights of the weak. Cheng spoke up for 100 million Hepatitis B carriers, fighting for their jobs and educational rights. He joined others in advancing the launch of the labor law against Hepatitis B discrimination. He strived to return birthrights to people and advocated for the termination of the planned parenthood policy. He asked the government to allow families have their 2nd child and fought for the legitimate rights and interests of several million families who lost their only child. Cheng advanced the legislation of financial aid to families so that from tens of billions of social support expenditures, each family losing their only child can receive a 1,500 yuan [approximately 229 USD] stipend each month.
Cheng also focused attention on equal rights for 75,000,000 disabled people. He helped with the first lawsuit regarding a blind person attending college, promoting education equality for the disabled. He cared about AIDS patients, helped with the first lawsuit about employment discrimination against AIDS patients, and fought for their equal rights and interests. He also expressed concern about social issues the Hukou system caused. He advocated for equal education rights of immigrant workers’ children and rights of children who stay in their hometowns while their parents work in other cities and provinces.
My husband demonstrates an example of how Chinese folks participate in social affairs, how they actively build citizens’ society, and advance the rule of law. Nevertheless, others neither lauded nor supported him because of his public service, nor did they acknowledge social progress he promoted, nor recognize his advocacy for citizens’ rights. Instead, the CCP targeted his organization in the name of “national security” and cracked down on it because the CCP’s radical leftism and ideology have reemerged. The arrests of Cheng and the other two Changsha NGO staffers symbolize that CCP authorities have escalated the suppression of folk’s society. No room exists for NGOs to advocate for rights to survive in China.
The wrong accusation, however, reveals that organs processing the lawsuit violate laws despite knowing laws. They trample human rights and persecute NGO people. The fight of families of the three Changsha NGO staffers in the past more than 600 days provides further evidence supporting the abhorrent fact that Changsha Municipal State Security Bureau, Changsha Municipal Procuratorate, and Changsha Municipal Court have ignored laws. While processing the case, they tread on laws and put themselves above the law.
On July 22, 2019, Changsha State Security officers arrested Cheng Yuan, Liu Dazhi, and Wuge Jianxong (#threeChangshaNGOstaffers) on the charge of inciting subversion of state power. After government authorities stripped these three of the right to meet with and communicate with their attorneys, they assigned court-appointed lawyers. Officials banned me and the family members of the other two detained NGO staffers from the information they regard as confidential. The court secretly tried the three Changsha NGO staffers in late August and in early September 2020, however, they have not related any update to lawyers and families.
During the days of Cheng Yuan’s custody, although I never worked for an NGO but only for a commercial company, secret police immediately charged me with inciting subversion of state power—just because I am Cheng Yuan’s wife. Authorities interrogated me for more than 20 hours and forced me to write a pledge. They even threatened to legally involve my then 3-year-old daughter. Afterward, Changsha State Security officers and Shenzhen State Security officers put me under designated residential surveillance for 180 days. On July 23, 2019, without any reason, Changsha State Security officers froze my bank account. They confiscated my ID, my passport, and my Exit-Entry Permit for traveling to and from Hong Kong and Macao. As authorities limited my freedom, they threatened multiple times to take me away if I continued to speak up.
I remember the woman, Changsha state security officer in charge of my case who on July 22, 2019 threatened to legally involve my daughter. Carrying an LV purse, she blatantly warned, “Behave, Shi Minglei. You did not tell us everything honestly. Do you want me to bring your daughter into the interrogation?”
I also remember that in January 2020, Lin Shengyin, a Changsha state security officer, said to our lawyer, “If she didn’t have a child, I promise that without any doubt, she would be in the detention center.”
Our lawyer responded, “Why would you arrest Cheng Yuan’s wife? Did she break any laws?”
Lin Shengxin said with a sneer, “Hum… Hum… hum….”
I will never forget that Police Officer Lin Shengxin implied to my lawyer, my family, and me multiple times that not only would I have trouble, but my family would have trouble as well. This meant that my older sister’s daughter (a child with disabilities) would have trouble if I continued to speak up.
At midnight on July 27, 2019, after I posted the news that police had arrested my husband, five Shenzhen state security officers broke into my home. They interrogated me, threatened me, and insulted me before my 3-year-old daughter.
On August 13, 2019, two Changsha state security officers, including Lin Shengxin and Zhao Qian, traveled from Changsha to Shenzhen to threaten me. They showed me a video of my husband. In the video, Cheng’s eyes fill with fear as he relentlessly begs them to let me go.
On August 31, 2019, I traveled to the police station to retrieve my possessions police had confiscated without reason. I requested that officials unfreeze my illegally frozen bank account. Instead of returning my possessions, Lin Shengxin, a Changsha state security officer, threatened that they would change the mandatory measure and arrest me if I did not return home immediately.
On September 19, 2019, Han, a Shenzhen state security officer, came to my home in Shenzhen to interrogate me. He also warned that if I violated designated residential surveillance rules, authorities could change the mandatory measure and arrest me at any time. I asked Officer Han,
How did I incite subversion of state power?”
What did I do that constitutes subversion of state power?
What are the facts and evidence?
Officer Han said, “Don’t talk to me about law, you all touch on politics, so don’t talk about law.”
Confused, I continued to ask Han, Is China under the rule of law? Wouldn’t my husband’s case be processed per laws? I did not break laws but was held under residential surveillance. My bank account was frozen. My freedom was restricted. Were all these in line with laws? Residential surveillance is against the law.
Officer Han said, “I don’t care whether it breaks laws or not. I am just responsible for enforcing your residential surveillance. I warn you again that the consequence will be severe if you break residential surveillance rules.”
In November 2019, procurators Deng Feng and Yi Dan of Changsha Municipal Procuratorate traveled to Shenzhen from Changsha. They stated they would investigate my case suing Changsha state security officers for abusing power and bending the law for the benefit of relatives or friends. We met in a tea house located in Huaqiao Cheng. The moment the procurators saw me, Mr. Deng Feng angrily threatened me, saying that I broke residential surveillance rules. He asked me to look up the criminal laws to confirm they could change the mandatory measure any time and arrest me. This threat shocked and irritated me.
My daughter and I lived in the darkness filled with constant threats and persecution for more than 600 days.
In September 2019, Shenzhen police harassed the Christian kindergarten my daughter attended and forced the school to move. In June 2020, due to multiple police threats and their crackdown, the kindergarten my daughter attended disbanded. My daughter began homeschooling in July 2020.
Police harassment also adversely affected my work. Secret police pressured my employers. As I valued my employers, I opted for compromise and silence. This did not mean that I did not know the ugly things Changsha secret police had done. They had purposed to use my daughter and me as their obedient hostages, hoping to silence me, and coerce Cheng Yuan to plead guilty. They used several approaches trying to achieve this goal, intending to isolate me from others.
In September 2020, state security officers followed and interrogated one of my friends simply because I visited them after the birth of her second child.
In March 2020, authorities asked the Politics and Law Committee of my hometown to pressure my mom to try to force me to give up safeguarding my rights per laws. The most appalling tactic, however, involved authorities repeatedly interrogating one of my former coworkers about the relationship between Cheng and me. Police bribed the kind coworker who moved and eventually resigned because of feeling overwhelmed.
As they have reached so far, I consider Changsha state security officers as evil backstage manipulators.
I kept track of the following:
- Li Chansi, the director of Changsha Municipal State Security Bureau, and officers who processed the case include Lin Shengxin, Zhao Qian, Zhang Lei, Wu Zhao, and Zhang Luhao, etc.
- Wang Xunjue served as the chief procurator of Changsha Municipal Procuratorate, with Officer Han Bingnan, and Procurator Deng Feng, etc.
- Xiao Xinping, the director of Changsha Municipal Court, as well as Judge Zhao Zhe, and Chief Judge Li Jun, were in charge of the criminal court.
- Yin Xiaoying, the director of Changsha Municipal Department of Justice, and He Mu, the director of Lawyer Control Department worked on my case.
Each persecution these officials have inflicted on Cheng Yuan, Liu Dazhi, and Wuge Jianxong in the past 628 days remains on record. I say to them: “You, as justice personnel, know laws, but break laws. You trample on the rule of law at your will. I will make every effort to let those who value freedom and life know what you have done.”
I call on Mayor Zheng Jianxin and all staff and justice people who handle the cases of the three NGO staffers:
We, the families of the three Changsha NGO staffers, will not give up fighting for our rights as long as authorities refuse to grant the three illegally detained people their legal rights.
We, the families of the three Changsha NGO staffers, will not stop speaking out if these three innocent people are not released.
“Nothing in the world can be hidden. Those who walk in the dark dare not see the light, but the light ultimately shines on in the darkness. Those who hurt others will hurt themselves, you dig a pit today, but you yourselves will fall into it tomorrow.”*
April 9, 2021