The exodus of “wall country leeks”

One day in June, Xu Zheng and his parents went to a photo studio to take a family photo. He told them that he was going to work again and didn’t know how long he would be back. What he had in mind was that they might never see each other again in this life.

When he left the country at Shekou Customs in Shenzhen, he pretended to be calm and answered the public security border guards’ questions one by one – he had a business visa for Ukraine and was going to visit the local restaurant market, planning to open a Chinese restaurant and return in a month. The police repeatedly checked his documents and took him to a small room for further questioning. Xu Zheng’s heart was in his throat. If there was any mistake, not only would his trip be ruined, but his biggest worry was that if his passport was cut by the border guards, he would never be able to “escape from the wall country” again. “.

Fortunately, he was released an hour or so later, and on June 25, sitting on the boat from Shekou to Hong Kong, he had mixed feelings. Once he arrived at Hong Kong airport, tears welled up in his eyes as he thought of the hundreds of thousands of protesters who had staged a sit-in here in August 2019 to protest police brutality and demand that the government respond to their demands.

When the plane finally left Hong Kong in the night, he could no longer hold back his bawling.

“My tears kept falling, and I didn’t know where I could go in the future, but I knew I spoke and I would never again be arrested by Chinese police over tea for these,” Xu Zheng told Voice of America.

Recently, Xu Zheng took to Twitter under the pseudonym “Hill @antichinaccp” to document in detail He drew a lot of attention when he tweeted under the pseudonym “Hill @antichinaccp” detailing the twists and turns of his “escape from wall country,” including how he dealt with the harsh scrutiny of Chinese customs.

He chose July 1, the day the Chinese Communist Party celebrates its centennial, to give a video interview to Voice of America from the Ukrainian capital, Kiev.

“I’m not going to be anonymous, so I’m going to do it openly and tell the truth about my experience,” he said.

Expelled from school because of June 4

Xu Zheng, who describes himself as a “wall country leek,” is a 23-year-old native of Ya’an, Sichuan province, who grew up in Northeast China and dropped out of high school. He said he was late to school, graduating from high school at the age of 20, but a few days before the 2019 college entrance exam, he was dissuaded from school because he and the school’s party secretary had a fight over the 89 Tiananmen Square incident.

“At that time our teacher brainwashed us, saying that back then the bourgeoisie incited students to riot and wanted to overthrow the republic or something, and I said that wasn’t true, that students took to the streets because they were against corruption and wanted freedom of speech. Then the teacher reported me and informed the secretary of the party committee of the school. “

In 2014, by chance, Xu Zheng, 16, began to “go over the wall”. At that time, the “Umbrella Movement” was in full swing as Hong Kong people fought for democracy and universal suffrage. After learning to climb the wall, he said he saw countless tragic cases of human rights crackdowns by the Chinese government, from the mass arrest of 709 human rights lawyers to the detention of millions of Muslims in Xinjiang, and the heavy sentence of 14 years for Niu Tengyu, who was accused of leaking the privacy of China’s top leader ……

“I was in great pain after knowing this, but I had no way to show my solidarity with them in public in China, because then I would also be in danger of losing my life, so I have been in great torment. ” Xu Zheng said.

In the meantime, he has also had two experiences of being “teared up”: once in 2018 for using QQ email to sign an open letter on the U.S. White House website to protest Beijing’s Xinjiang policy. Once in 2018, he was taken away from his school by the police because he signed an open letter on the U.S. White House website protesting Beijing’s Xinjiang policy; and once in 2019, after Pastor Wang Yi of Chengdu Qiu Yu Church was sentenced for “inciting subversion,” he shouted on WeChat He was summoned by the local police station after shouting “Pastor Wang Yi is not guilty”.

Remembering the Summer of 2019 in Hong Kong

Two days after being expelled from school, Xu Zheng got a job at a convenience store in Shenzhen’s Luohu district. He recalls that at that time, Shenzhen was full of “Sanhe Daishin” (migrant workers living around the Sanhe manpower market in Longhua New District, Shenzhen, on a daily wage and at low cost). It was not difficult to find a job.

I’ve done a lot of jobs before, but they were all so-called low-end jobs, such as take-away workers, couriers, restaurant waiters, cashiers and so on. Because I wasn’t able to go to college, I wasn’t able to find jobs that looked more decent,” he said.

Xu Zheng told Voice of America that another reason he chose to work in Shenzhen was because the “Return to China” protests were breaking out in Hong Kong at the time, and he wanted to join the people of Hong Kong and be a real He wanted to join the Hong Kong people and be a real “rebel”.

At that time, it was not difficult for mainland residents to apply for a Hong Kong and Macau Permit. While working in a convenience store, Xu Zheng secretly went to Hong Kong twice. He participated in a march of 2 million people and heard a whole street of people shouting “Down with the Communists”; he saw the police hit a child’s head with a tear gas canister. He saw a child’s head bleed while his mother cried in despair; he saw the Apple Daily newspaper that he and the people of Hong Kong circulated, which has now been forced out of print.

“I will remember it for the rest of my life, the summer of 2019,” Xu Zheng said.

Secretly planning his escape route

At the time, he didn’t have the idea of “escaping the wall country. He also expects that the U.S.-China trade war may force China to open up. But with the outbreak of the new crown outbreak, the Chinese government began imposing strict travel restrictions. Since early last year, news of China’s suspension of private passport processing has been circulating. People continued to post online that they had been denied passports and exit.

In November of that year, Yin Chengji of China’s National Immigration Administration said at a press conference on the prevention and control of the outbreak that China would continue to “strictly control the cross-border activities of unnecessary people ” and “strictly approve applications for entry and exit documents for Chinese citizens for non-essential reasons such as tourism, and discourage and restrict non-essential and non-urgent entry and exit activities for mainland residents such as traveling, visiting relatives and friends. “

Xu Zheng sat up and took notice.

“I saw a lot of information on Twitter showing that Xi Jinping wanted to close the door and combined with the fact that it was so difficult to get a passport, I started to get nervous and the idea of leaving started in February or March this year. “He said.

“I’m such a wall country leek, trying to obtain visas for developed countries is very difficult, had to give up, but without a visa absolutely can not pass the border control of the mainland ports,” he said.

He began to study the entry and isolation policies of various countries, combining what his Twitter friends shared with his own financial means to plan his escape route. After months of secret planning, he decided to leave the border at Shekou, take a boat to Hong Kong, and from there fly to Kiev, the capital of Ukraine, via Istanbul.

“I’m a lay flat, I don’t spend a lot of my salary when I work part-time, and I’ve been saving money. The plane ticket and the various procedures cost me nearly 20,000 yuan, which I’ve been saving for a year,” Xu Zheng said.

He did not tell his family and friends about his plans. He felt a Cultural Revolution atmosphere was now pervading China and was worried about being reported. He said that at least 80 percent of his peers around him were “pinkos” who sided with the officials, and he didn’t really have any friends he could talk to.

The police are coming

On July 1, when Beijing was celebrating the 100th anniversary of the founding of the Communist Party of China, Xu Zheng came to protest in front of the Chinese embassy in Kiev and tweeted his picture for the first time.

“For these 100 years, the Chinese Communist Party has brought endless oppression and torture to the Chinese people. I, as an unarmed leek, could only humbly stand in front of the Chinese communist embassy and raise my voice,” he wrote.

A few hours later, Chinese police found Xu Zheng’s parents back home in Sichuan. For days, Xu Zheng said, police had harassed them – monitoring phone calls, controlling freedom of movement, and going to his home and copying his cell phone, computer and other items he had left behind in China.

When his mother spoke to him by voice via WeChat, his father yelled at him from the sidelines: “You dog traitor, what’s wrong with the country? You hurry back and turn yourself in, or die abroad, how did I give birth to something like you! “

Xu Zheng told the Voice of America that his parents are honest people and ordinary “wall country leeks,” his father is a laid-off employee of a state-owned enterprise and his mother is self-employed. They are not members of the party, nor do they have vested interests, and they support the Communist Party only because of the propaganda of the party state.

“But even if their hearts go to Red, the Communist Party won’t stop harassing them because they are pro-government,” he said.

Ukraine is no place to stay for long

After that public appearance in front of the embassy, Xu received many abusive messages and threats that his picture had been posted to the local “patriotic Chinese community” and that he would taste the consequences if he showed up. He was threatened that if he showed up, he would feel like a “rat in the street”.

I’m also very scared here because the Chinese government and the Chinese Embassy have a special WeChat group here, in cooperation with the United Front Work Department, which collects information about the thoughts of Chinese people in Kiev every day, and my whereabouts may be recorded,” he said. ” he said.

On the same day Xu Zheng left China, Beijing threatened to seize more than 500,000 Chinese vaccines intended for export to Ukraine, forcing the country to withdraw a statement supporting a thorough investigation of the human rights situation in Xinjiang, according to the Associated Press. The statement, initiated by Canada, was co-signed by more than 40 countries.

The news came as a bolt from the blue for Xu Zheng. He felt that Ukraine was not the place to stay. He feared further pressure from China to deport him.

A flight with no turning back

On July 11, after 10 days of anxiety in Kiev, Xu Zheng boarded a flight from Ukraine to Ecuador via the Netherlands and chose to “jump” in Amsterdam. He said that the Netherlands opposes Hong Kong’s “political and economic development. He said the Netherlands opposes Hong Kong’s “national security law” and condemns the Xinjiang concentration camps, a country that protects human rights. He hopes to apply for political asylum there.

I’m really afraid to go back to China. Any criticism of Xi Jinping in China will be severely tortured,” he said, sending a final video to Voice of America before complaining to Dutch police at the airport.

Xu Zheng did not know where he would go next, what his fate would be, he only knew there was no turning back. He would be scared and feel isolated, but had no regrets.

Sometimes he would look at the photo taken with his parents in the photo studio and weep silently, despite his different political views from them, but after all, they have lived together for more than 20 years, and that family love is forever.

He also wants to say to everyone in the “wall country” who is as eager for freedom as he is, that the opportunity to come out is as precious as boarding the ship to Taiwan in 1949. I hope everyone can live in a place where there will be no written prison.