‘I Am Pregnant, But There’s Nobody to Look After Me’

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image (21)2015-08-06

A plainclothes officer blocks the door from the inside of Zhang Haitao’s home in Urumqi, February 2015.
Photo courtesy of Zhang Haitao

Chinese authorities in the troubled northwestern region of Xinjiang detained prominent rights activist Zhang Haitao on June 26, charging him with “picking quarrels and stirring up trouble.”

His wife, Li Aijie, who is pregnant with the couple’s child,told RFA’s Mandarin Service that Zhang’s bank account has been frozen by police since she received notification of his formal arrest.

“At first, the charges against him were ethnic discrimination and incitement to ethnic hatred. But when it came to the formal arrest on July 31, it was changed to picking quarrels and stirring up trouble,” Li said.

“They had me sign the formal arrest notification, and they said that this new charge included the old charges, and that this was a more serious charge.”

Li said there were signs that her husband’s detention could be to do with something he sent out via the popular social media app WeChat.

“When we were still together, [Zhang’s] WeChat account was shut down, I think because he had sent out something [the authorities didn’t like], but I don’t know the details,” she said. “Maybe it was because he retweeted something.”

She said state security police hadn’t shown much interest in Zhang before his detention, however.

“Back around Chinese New Year, they asked me to go and apply for a residence permit [for Xinjiang], but I don’t know why they have taken him away now,” Li said.

“We have no idea what the outcome will be. Will it go to trial, now that he has been formally arrested?”

No end in sight

Li said she is worried that Zhang’s case will drag on indefinitely.

“I am pregnant right now, but there’s nobody to look after me,” she said. “When will the trial take place? The authorities say that I won’t be allowed to visit him until after the prosecution has issued an indictment.”

She added: “The prosecution has already had a long time to investigate this. If they spend another four months investigating, then my child will have been born.”

“The people at the state security police keep telling me to go back to my hometown. I said, what am I supposed to do when I get there? I don’t even have an apartment to live in,” she said. “I call them, and they just keep prevaricating.”

“I asked them what law is he supposed to have broken, that you have taken him away? They told me that it was a secret.”

Zhang’s defense lawyer Li Dunyong said he was able to visit Zhang in the Xinjiang Autonomous Region Detention Center at the end of July, and that he denies the charges against him.

“He denies the charges … and says he was doing the exact opposite, by working to help defend the rights of ethnic minorities,” Li Dunyong said.

“He said he was working to protect the interests of ethnic minorities, and that the authorities have no evidence whatsoever.”

He added: “He is very worried about the fact that his wife has no money, and that there’ll be nobody to take care of her when the baby’s born.”
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