Chinese 00-year-old Wang Jingyu, who lives overseas, was recently chased across the border by Chongqing police for his online comments
Wang confirmed the call again – at 12:41 a.m. China Time on Thursday (Feb. 25). That was the time, he said, when his father made a video call from a stairwell on the pretext of taking out the garbage and escaping police surveillance.
Wang Jingyu couldn’t see his face in the dim light, but it was obvious that his father’s voice had become fragile, tired and old.
Less than two minutes into the call, his father told him that he and Wang Jingyu’s mother were taken to the police station every morning at 6 or 7 and released Home at night. Since Wednesday, every night at 7 p.m., two policemen, one male and one female, would come to his house; two more people claiming to be policemen would come around 9 p.m. They would make their rounds for about an hour and then leave; the other two policemen would stay to spend the night with them. The male police officer and his father slept in one bed, while the female police officer and his mother slept in another bed in the next room, and then they would be escorted back to the police station after dawn.
The police told his father that they needed to take them under residential surveillance because of the bad influence of Wang Jingyu’s recent interviews with overseas media.
“My father’s original statement was that if I ever spoke out in the media outside of China again, they would simply detain my Parents when they saw it,” Wang Jingyu told Voice of America via Skype.
On Friday evening, his mother, who is bedridden because of her deteriorating health, was allowed to speak with him under police supervision. She said some of the information Wang has posted online and interviews with foreign media over the past few days have drawn a lot of attention from his workplace and all levels of government. Many people come to the house every day. Wang’s parents, both employees of state-owned enterprises, have both been asked to suspend their jobs to cooperate with the investigation.
Wang Jingyu, now 19, left her hometown of Chongqing in July 2019 and is currently traveling in Europe. This week, he was reported by netizens for posting comments on Weibo that questioned and criticized the Chinese Communist Party officers and soldiers killed in the Sino-Indian border conflict.
An announcement from Chongqing’s Shapingba police said that “the suspect Wang was criminally detained on suspicion of picking quarrels and provoking trouble, and he was put on the Internet to pursue his escape.” For several days, he came under heavy fire from netizens for denigrating the Communist Army as “traitors” and “traitors. His and his Family‘s personal information – name, date of birth, home address, parents’ workplace and cell phone numbers – have also been “fleshed out” in a frenzy.
Wang told Voice of America that it took about 20 minutes from the time the tweet was sent to the time the police raided his home.
“At around 6:50 p.m. that night (Feb. 21), our local police in Chongqing, as well as state security officers and unidentified police officers, who were not wearing police uniforms and did not show any identification, stormed into my house,” he said.
According to Wang Jingyu, the police overpowered his parents with handcuffs, seized many items in the house including iPads, computers, cash, etc., and then took them to Qinjiagang Police Station in Shapingba District, where they were detained in different interrogation rooms, and told them to contact their son and delete the microblog immediately, or further measures would be taken.
“He told me that no matter where you are, you have such a big impact with this, and now the whole Chinese people know that you denigrate the communist army. The Central Committee of the Communist Party, the Foreign Ministry and many departments know about this. He said, if you don’t return to China, even if you are in the United States, in Europe, we will extradite you back. He also threatened me on the phone. He said, are you personally more capable, or are we more capable as a country? You should not think that other countries can protect you. This is delusional!”
Wang also said that from the day after the incident to the present, his parents have been taken to the police station for 12 hours every day without being given Food, and his frail mother occasionally gets a glass of water. The police forced them to ask when their son would return to the country and threatened them with criminal detention. Many other internet users run to his house every day and knock on the door. There are people at the door of the house 24 hours a day.
“Wang Jingyu: I am a police officer from Qinjiagang police station, you are restricted to surrender to our office within three days, otherwise there is no good end for your parents,” he tweeted, posting the text message allegedly from the police.
Over the past few days, Voice of America has repeatedly called the police station and the cell phone number posted by netizens for Wang’s mother, but has been unable to reach anyone involved.
Teng Biao, a former Chinese human rights lawyer who follows Wang’s case and is now a legal scholar living in the United States, said he had only heard of cross-border law enforcement efforts such as Operation Fox Hunt to track down alleged embezzlers overseas, but it was unheard of for a person to be “chased online” for speaking out.
He told VOA via Skype that China’s recent creation of a “trial in absentia” system in its Criminal Procedure Law has made it possible for people like Wang to be convicted even when they are overseas.
While Wang’s case was fermenting, Chinese police also launched coordinated operations in Beijing, Qinhuangdao in Hebei, Guiyang in Guizhou, Maoming in Guangdong and Mianyang in Sichuan, tracking down seven online statements about fallen soldiers in the Sino-Indian border conflict and detaining six people in three days for “insulting and defaming martyrs.
In 2018, the Communist Party promulgated the Law on the Protection of Martyrs, which will be further strengthened by amendments to the criminal code that will come into effect next month. The amendment stipulates that “anyone who insults, defames or otherwise infringes on the reputation or honor of heroes and martyrs and damages the public interests of society, and the circumstances are serious, shall be sentenced to fixed-term imprisonment of up to three years, detention, control or deprivation of political rights.”
Teng Biao said that the CCP’s control over online speech has undoubtedly become stricter at the moment, with the threshold for arresting and sentencing people greatly lowered, and there have been more and more incidents of people who have spoken out overseas and have been detained or had their domestic family members implicated after returning home.
“In any normal, modern country, there is no such stigma system,” he said. “Each person is responsible for his or her own actions. Neither parents, relatives, nor associated persons are responsible for the others. It’s clearly stated in the criminal law, the constitution, the criminal procedure law, etc. But in practice it is another matter. This political strain is still very common.”
Human Rights Watch’s 2021 World Human Rights Report, released in January, criticized the Chinese Communist authorities for increasingly targeting the families of human rights defenders while continuing to crack down on the community of human rights defenders.
Wang Jingyu, who is overseas, was worried about his parents’ safety, but the only relief he felt was that his parents were supportive and did not blame him a word. His father even argued with the police: “Even if you say my son broke the law, I didn’t break the law, is it illegal to report my ID card or my home address? Wang Jingyu broke the law, you go to arrest him, you can not come to implicate me.”
“The police told my father that it was good that they didn’t implicate you, that they didn’t kill you,” he told the Voice of America.
Wang said he became a “rebel” at a young age, largely due to the influence of his family: his grandfather had been a government official all his Life; his father was assigned to work for Chongqing’s public security department after retiring from the Air Force, and he could have had a great career because he was uncomfortable with many things around him and chose to work as a salesman for a state-owned enterprise, and because he hated fake elections, he resigned as a deputy to the National People’s Congress. He resigned from his position as a deputy to the National People’s Congress because he was sick of the sham elections.
“At that time, Chongqing was not a good place for law and order, and the public security officers were bandits. My father also told me personally that the police in Chongqing went around looking for private enterprises and large families to collect protection money. You do not take money to get you, will beat you. My father even told me that in some remote villages in Chongqing, the police is the king of heaven, the police is God, if you do not listen to the police, you will have to look good, as your family will not end up well,” Wang Jingyu told the Voice of America.
Since he was a child, his father taught him to “climb over the wall,” told him about the history rewritten by official history and told him not to believe the reports of the Chinese media. “Those are all lies,” he said.
At school, Wang was the focus of his teachers’ attention. He would tell his classmates that the Chinese Communist Party stole power illegally; that the leaders of any political party should be the people’s choice. If the leader of the Communist Party is not chosen by the people and is internally determined, it cannot be a legitimate political party.
“In China, if you go against the Communist Party, you’re dead,” the principal admonished him.
For that reason, he changed schools many times and got a premature taste of repression from officials.
Wang Jingyu says he will not return to China and in the future hopes to do his part to continue to be more vocal within the walls. “99 percent of the people I speak about may not understand me, but if I can bring 1 percent of people to their senses, I think it’s all very valuable.” He said.
“Don’t give up on your ideals,” his father told him that day in the dimly lit stairwell from the phone call that had sneaked in. “You can’t back out of the battle; you’ll die honorably even if you have to, and history will remember you.”
Wang Jingyu wanted to say something more, but his father hung up the phone in a hurry.