Friday, July 29, 2011

Biography of Wang Lihong

(The below is according to information provided by relatives and friends of Wang Lihong. Additions and corrections are welcome.)

Wang Lihong was born in October 1955 in a military cadre’s family in Qingdao, China. She went to primary and middle school in Beijing. In April 1975, she was sent to Yan'an in northern Shaanxi province as part of a Cultural Revolution campaign to expose urban Chinese to conditions in China’s countryside known as the “Down to the Countryside” movement. There she attended Yan'an University, studying in the department of Chinese Language, between October 1978 and July 1982. After graduating from college, she returned to Beijing and worked in a government agency. She left the agency in 1991 and started doing business. She retired in 2008. As such, she had more time to go online and started engaging in public interest work. Wang Lihong put her idealism and humanism into practice through various online activities: she started a blog, reflected on citizen rights, took note of the plight of women in China, and committed passionately to volunteer activities such as investigation by citizens on those covered up issues.

On July 1, 2008, the Yang Jia incident happened in the Zhabei Branch of the Shanghai Police Department. Yang's mother Wang Jingmei, although an important witness, oddly could not be located after the incident. It was later evident that the Shanghai Police had forced her into a mental hospital under the fictitious name of Liu Yaling. Wang Lihong visited Wang Jingmei's home several times after the latter was freed. She interviewed Wang Jingmei and put the interview transcript up online. In addition, she wrote several blog articles about the Yang Jia incident. It was during this period that Wang Lihong got to know Yang Fusheng, father of Yang Jia, and the artist Ai Weiwei. After Yang Jia was executed, Wang Lihong was concerned about his lonely mother Wang Jingmei, and visited her especially during the Chinese New Year and other holidays.

Around the same time, Wang Lihong joined forces with blogger Tiger-Temple (nickname), poet A Er and others to help homeless people around Tiananmen Square. She was deeply sympathetic to the experiences of one such disabled person from Guizhou Province named Zhang Xianping. Zhang was paralyzed due to polio during childhood. He lost his father at age three, and had been taken care of by his mother until he was seven years old, at which time his mother also passed away. After many years of struggle and suffering, he decided to commit suicide. He wanted to see Tiananmen before leaving the world. So he borrowed some money and made it to Beijing. Once there, Zhang met Lao Wang, another Tiananmen Square drifter, and was settled into a special village for displaced persons. Having learned Zhang's experiences, Wang Lihong, A Er, and Tiger-Temple issued a call for donations for Zhang, resulting in a donation of 30,000 RMB from artist Ai Weiwei. With the fund and help from netizens, Zhang obtained a new wheelchair, and was able to receive a medical operation at the Beijing Osteomyelitis Hospital. Zhang has since recovered. With help from netizens such as Wang Lihong, he was able to get a job selling newspapers and is now self-reliant. (Ref 1)

On May 10, 2009, a local government official in the town of Yesanguan (in Hubei Province’s Badong County) was sexually aggressive towards a young woman named Deng Yujiao. After Deng famously used a knife against her attacker, leaving him injured, the interaction became known as the “Deng Yujiao Incident,” and attracted national attention. During the time Deng Yujiao was under arrest, Wang Lihong and another volunteer, best known by his internet alias “Butcher” went to Badong to observe the unfolding of the legal case against Deng, and tried to ensure a just verdict. After returning to Beijing, Wang Lihong and other netizens stood in front of the Hubei Hotel in Beijing’s Haidian District, and handed out leaflets calling for support for Deng. Wang Lihong was then taken to Beijing’s Dazhongsi Police Station for interrogation. Deng was later found guilty of improper self-defense, but was not sentenced due to her voluntary surrender.

In May 2009, a petitioner from Shandong province named Yao Jing was severely beaten and wounded by officers from Linyi, Shandong Province who were stationed in Beijing with the purpose of intercepting such petitioners, and barring them from reaching higher government officials. Wang Lihong was part of a call from the Open Constitution Initiative to support Yao, and wrote several articles on the matter. Faced with public pressure, the officers from Linyi paid the medical expenses associated with two of Yao's hospital visits. Wang Lihong, Xu Zhiyong, Tiger-Temple, A Er, Liu Dejun, and Wang Zhongxia were among the first to donate to Yao Jing. Thanks to donations from netizens around the country, Yao Jing was able to pay off all of her remaining medical expenses, hospitalization costs, and legal fees. (Ref 2)

Ni Yulan, a former human rights lawyer, had served time in jail due to a miscarriage of justice. Upon completion of her sentence, when she was released, she did not have a place to live. Wang Lihong and other netizens visited Ni Yulan and helped her to cope with her living difficulties. Wang Lihong's voice—and, in particular, an independent documentary on the matter, “Emergency Shelter''--drew a lot of media attention, and finally led to the publication of a report in the weekly “Nanfang People.” (forth-coming details)

Painter Yan Zhengxue was convicted of "inciting subversion" and sentenced to jail. He later gained early release because of his illness. He started creating statues of two female martyrs: Lin Zhao and Zhang Zhixin. Upon completion, Wang Lihong attended the exhibition opening, along with Peking University Professor Qian Liquan. They promoted more public exhibitions. On April 3, 2010, together with Professor Cui Weiping, Professor Xia Yeliang, Professor Ai Xiaoming and others within intellectual community, Wang Lihong participated in the 35th anniversary commemoration of Zhang Zhixin. (Ref 3)

Wang Lihong has been involved in advocacy about a number of civil rights cases. The cases she has worked on include that of the blind lawyer, Chen Guangcheng in Shandong Province; the case of Tian Xi, who contracted the AIDS virus from a blood transfusion in Henan Province; and Li Shulian, a petitioner from Shandong Province who was beaten to death (per family members and independent investigations). As part of her work on Li Shulian's case, Wang visited Li's family; she donated money, filmed and uploaded video interviews onto the web. Because of her sharp reporting and challenging analysis, her blog articles were first deleted, and later, the blog itself was shut down. She had to "scale the wall"—or circumvent China’s internet firewall--to set up her new blog.

In 2010, the social media site Twitter became a new information platform for the Chinese civil rights movement, and Wang Lihong became an active Twitter user. In particular, she used Twitter to raise awareness about the cases of three Fujian netizens’ cases, and has gathered extensive public concern from ordinary citizens, leading to the signatures of over 5000 people from across China in support of the cases.

In June 2009, a Fujian civil reporter Fan Yanqiong wrote a post and put it online for a woman petitioner Lin Xiuying who believed her daughter Yan Xiaoling had been murdered after being raped by eight men at a police-backed brothel in Minqing, Fujian Province. Fan’s post drew huge attention among Chinese netizens and she was arrested by police immediately. Upon reading Fan’s post, You Jingyou initiated a videotaping on Lin Xiuying’s narration and what Wu Huaying witnessed during the process. The end result was that all three of them were put in jail for libel. There was widespread discussion and reporting of their controversial detention in Chinese media. Wang Lihong wrote 23 letters to Party Secretary Sun Chunlan in Fujian, all in her capacity as a concerned citizen. She urged Sun to listen to public opinion and protect citizens’ rights. On March 19 and April 16, 2010, the three netizens’ case went to court in Fujian. Wang Lihong, along with other netizens from around China, held a demonstration outside the courthouse in support of the three defendants. On April 16, when the traffic was sealed off in front of the courthouse, Wang Lihong and others staged a protest in the non-restricted area. They sang the Internationale song. You Jingyou and Wu Huaying were sentenced to one year in jail, while Fan Yanqiong received a two-year sentence.

While “observing” the cases of the three Fuzhou netizens on trial for their involvement in the Yan Xiaoling case, Wang Lihong earned a reputation among other netizens for her courage and enthusiasm. Based on her experience with those public events, Wang Lihong founded the "Wang Lihong Altruistic Volunteer Group” in an effort to rally public support, and build a network of like-minded volunteers who could help each other.

On October 8, 2010, the day the Nobel Peace Prize was awarded to Liu Xiaobo, Wang Lihong gathered with other netizens in Beijing to celebrate. They took group photos at the east gate of the Ditan Park in Beijing’s Dongcheng District. They were detained by Beijing police in the middle of dinner at a nearby restaurant. Wang Lihong was sentenced to an 8-day administrative detention. After 8 days in custody, Wang Lihong was not released, but was then kept under house arrest for another 6 days in a hotel in Chaoyang District. She finally came back home, but she was under police surveillance for about three months after.

During the period of surveillance, personnel from the local police station and national security office (“Guo Bao”) came to talk to her. They tried to convince her not to be nosy; not to contact "those people." She flatly refused. In the beginning of 2011, Wang Lihong was forced to “take a trip”—an emerging euphemism for being detained in an undisclosed location—for more than ten days. During this period, her laptop computer and cell phone were confiscated. Police requested that she meet a high-ranking leader who would like to have a conversation with her. Wang Lihong refused. She refused to write a so-called “guarantee”--a legal document that Chinese police use to exert pressure over civil rights activists in China to discourage them from future activities. However, she wrote a document entitled “A Refusal to Write a Guarantee,” saying, "Legally speaking, the very act of requiring a citizen to write pledge that they will refrain from future behavior that is, itself, legal; and thereby gain freedom of movement—this very act is, itself, illegal. It is a mockery of law.” She added, “as an officer of the law, for you to restrict my freedom of movement is against the law, and it has greatly disturbed my life. I urge the related law enforcement agencies and personnel to take quick action to correct your illegal wrongdoings and restore my freedom."

On March 15, 2011, the same day as the conclusion of the two meetings of China’s legislative bodies, the local police station informed Wang Lihong that the "watch order" over her had ended. Wang Lihong was able to again act as a free citizen. She went to Nanyang in Henan Province in an attempt to visit netizen Wang Yi, who was under a one-year forced labor education. After that, she went to Shangcai in Henan Province to deliver 500 Yuan to Tian Xi, the man who had been infected with AIDS via blood transfusion and sentenced for one year in prison for his rights activism. She planned to visit Tian Xi's parents, but due to a relapse of her lumbar disease, she was forced to return to Beijing.

On the evening of March 21, 2011, Wang Lihong sent out a tweet saying she might be taken away. Around 9pm that night, she was taken by 8 to 9 police, and her apartment was searched. On the arrest warrant and search warrant, she was accused as a suspect of "making trouble." This allegation is the same levied at other arrested people since the idea of a "Jasmine Revolution" began to spread on the internet. However, Wang Lihong never had the chance to participate in any Jasmine Revolution activities. On April 22, Wang Lihong was formally arrested by police in Beijing’s Chaoyang District, and the charge against her was changed to "disturbing the flow of traffic by gathering." Independent analyses believe that her arrest was an act of official retribution against her and others who had publicly protested in favor of the three Fujian netizens who had been involved in the Yan Xiaoling case on April 16, 2010.

At present, Wang Lihong is in the Chaoyang District detention center, and her case files have been transferred from the Chaoyang District Public Security Bureau to the Chaoyang District Procuratorate. Her lawyers, Liu Xiaoyuan and Han Yicun have not received any official notice of her status. (Update: Mr. Liu's law license is pending for renewal, and Mr. Han was unofficially informed on the phone that Wang will be formally charged on July 14, 2011.) Police have requested that she write a confession; swear not to meet sensitive people, or go to sensitive spots (such as Leqing, where village chief Qian Yunhui died in late 2010 under circumstances that many netizens suspect includes official corruption and foul play). She has been asked to pledge she will not be meddlesome (meaning avoid involvement in any case regarding human rights and political events). Police offered to release her if she confesses. Wang Lihong insisted that she has only ever been exercising her legal, constitutional rights. She refused to write kind of confession or pledge of this nature.

Wang Lihong suffers from severe lumbar disc herniation, and needs to wear a steel back brace. She has extreme nearsightedness (or myopia) in both eyes, at over 600 degrees. Lawyers requested she be released on bail, but police denied the request. Wang Lihong has been in the detention center for over 100 days.

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1 comment:

  1. I cant believe one woman could be so courageous while so many other Chinese citizens appear to be complacent about human rights violations just as long as it doesnt affect them.

    Who knows what they are doing to her in that prison. The Chinese governement are probably torturing and mutilating her, that is, if she'still alive.