For some family members of lawyers arrested under a massive crackdown on rights activists known as “709 incident”, Tuesday marked the fourth anniversary of a nightmare that continues.
The years long fight continue for some whose arrested spouses still languish in jail while some have been released. But one sliver lining during this long struggle for these families is the bond they developed with each other.
Like Wang Qiaoling and Li Wenzu, who met at a police station when they were looking for their detained husbands.
Li is still carrying on her struggle with the authorities and got to see her husband Wang Quanzhang only last month, years after his arrest and jailing.
Wang Qiaoling's husband Li Heping has been released, but she continues to reach out to Li Wenzu.
“When we were looking for our husbands, we felt we had the same responsibilities and goal. From the very beginning, I believed I could count on them," Li Wenzu told RTHK.
"But 709 is not just our 709, it’s not just the families. In the past four years, we received help from all around the world, and the support was why the families could hang on for so long,” she said.
Wang Qiaoling also said although her husband had been released, she would continue to stay by the side of Li Wenzu, because she’s like a sister now. “We stay with our families to the very end,” she said.
Li Wenzu said the authorities’ harassment had become part of her life in the past years.
“I was under house arrest. People from the neighborhood committee, plain-clothes security officers, and triad members hired by them, would surround me and insult me with foul language… I asked them: do I even know you? How can you treat me like this without even knowing the truth? I feel very sad, I feel very disappointed by what’s happening in China, it’s unbearable,” she said.
Wang Qiaoling said that for her, the most painful thing was to see her young daughter being dragged into the turmoil. A primary school the girl was enrolled in rejected her at the last minute, and she was accepted by another school about a year later when her father was released from jail.
“The authorities are shameless. Regardless of whether my husband had committed a crime, they had put pressure on an innocent child to shut us up, to stop us from speaking out," she said.
Li Wenzu said during the long struggle she not only gained a lot more legal knowledge, but also learned how to deal with law-enforcement agencies.
“We ask the police to show their ID. They are very scared and annoyed by this. In fact, under normal legal procedures, when they perform their duties, it’s a very basic requirement. But for them, it gives them pressure, they don’t like it.”
Li Wenzu said she won’t give up in the fight for her husband’s release, adding she wouldn’t have been able to carry on without the support of other so-called 709 families, and people from around the world.