Wife of Jailed Xinjiang Activist Left With Baby, No Income

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Li Aijie

Li Aijie, wife of jailed Xinjiang-based rights activist Zhang Haitao, and the couple’s baby in an undated photo. Photo courtesy of Li Aijie

The wife of jailed rights activist Zhang Haitao, a critic of the ruling Chinese Communist Party’s treatment of the mostly Muslim Uyghur ethnic group, said on Tuesday that she has been left with no income, relying on relatives to feed the couple’s child over Chinese New Year.

Authorities in Zhang’s home region of Xinjiang jailed him for 19 years last month on subversion and spying charges after he openly criticized government policy in the troubled region.

Zhang was handed a 15-year term on a charge of “incitement to subvert state power” and a five-year term for “providing intelligence overseas” by the Intermediate People’s Court in Xinjiang’s regional capital, Urumqi.

He will serve 19 years in total in a sentence that one rights group described as “extraordinarily harsh.”

“Right now, my relatives are helping me to take care of our child, but I won’t be able to depend on other people indefinitely,” Zhang’s wife Li Aijie told RFA on Tuesday, the second day of the 10-year Chinese New Year national holiday, when most people are celebrating at home with their families.

“They have their own families to take care of,” said Li, who is still breast-feeding.

“I don’t have enough milk left to give a full feed to the baby, who is now also drinking formula,” Li said.

She said she had received some donations from well-wishers and friends. “But that won’t even be enough to pay the lawyers,” Li said, adding: “I’ll have to take it one day at a time.”

Unable to cope

Li said Zhang had written to her since his sentencing, reassuring her that he can cope with the long jail term. “But he said … he was afraid I wouldn’t be able to cope with it,” she said.

“He told me to make it clear to the international community exactly what our circumstances are, in the hope that somebody will take notice and help me,” Li said.

“He also told me I should think of myself, and maybe think about getting another husband,” Li said. “He realizes that [his sentence] won’t be easy on people close to him, people who love him.”

She added: “He said he hoped our child, who he loves a lot, will grow up to fight for democracy and human rights.”

Zhang’s lawyer Li Dunyong said he plans to appeal the sentence.

“This sentence was definitely too harsh, and they definitely forced a confession out of him,” Li Dunyong said. “They beat him up and forced him to admit he was against the [ruling Chinese Communist] Party and against socialism.”

“He had got into debates with people on various issues in the past, but he wasn’t anti-party or anti-socialism,” he said. “But the court refused at the trial to make a record of our claim that he’d been the subject of a forced confession.”

Zhang was initially detained on June 26, 2015 on suspicion of “picking quarrels and stirring up trouble,” but the charges against him were later changed to the more serious subversion and spying charges.

Reported by Xin Lin for RFA’s Mandarin Service, and by Lin Jing for the Cantonese Service. Translated and written in English by Luisetta Mudie.

Source: http://www.rfa.org/english/news/china/wife-02092016145605.html