The Human Rights Foundation (HRF) demands the immediate release of Bao Zhuoxuan, the 16-year-old son of human rights lawyers Wang Yu and Bao Longjun. Bao Zhuoxuan was detained and placed under house arrest after trying to escape China, where both of his parents are imprisoned. His mother, Wang Yu, is a human rights lawyer who represents sexually assaulted schoolgirls and feminist activists. She has been arbitrarily imprisoned since July 9. Zhuoxuan’s father, Bao Longjun, was also taken into custody in July when the two tried to leave the country for Australia, where Zhuoxuan was due to begin high school.
“The Chinese dictatorship is acting with extreme cruelty by taking hostage the only son of these two human rights attorneys when they already suffer in jail simply for advocating for a fairer and more transparent China,” said HRF president Thor Halvorssen. “The actions of Xi Jinping’s dictatorship violate not only Bao Zhuoxuan’s right to live in a free country alongside his innocent parents but also his right to travel outside China in pursuit of a democratic education. The Chinese authorities must call off its round-the-clock surveillance, restore Bao’s ability to travel, and release his arbitrarily detained parents,” added Halvorssen.
Bao Zhuoxuan’s passport was revoked when he attempted to leave the country for Australia with his father. He was sent to Inner Mongolia to live with his grandparents following his father’s arrest. With the help of two activists earlier this month, Bao Zhuoxuan crossed the border to an area in Myanmar where a passport is not required, hoping to reach the United States through Thailand to continue his studies. Uniformed men took Bao Zhuoxuan and the two activists travelling with him from a guesthouse in a Myanmar border town near China. Bao has been sent back to Inner Mongolia, where he has been placed under 24-hour surveillance and is forbidden from speaking to journalists.
In what appear to be statements made under duress, Wang Yu and her husband were recently shown on state television condemning their son’s attempt to flee China. Huan Qiu Wang, the Chinese counterpart to the state-owned English-language newspaper Global Times, recently published an article claiming that Western media and activists fabricated the story of Bao Zhuoxuan’s harassment by authorities and that the escape was carried out to “attract eyeballs.”
“Bao Zhuoxuan’s parents have been held incommunicado under the charge of ‘inciting subversion of state power,’ an overbroad and vague charge commonly used by the Chinese dictatorship to silence critics of the government. The same charge was used to imprison Nobel Peace Laureate Liu Xiaobo and many other Chinese activists,” said Javier El-Hage, chief legal officer of HRF. “Now, China has moved one step further by punishing the family members of those arbitrarily imprisoned — a distinctively egregious M.O. made famous by the likes of Libya’s Muammar Gaddafi and North Korea’s Kim Jong-un,” added El-Hage.
Bao Zhuoxuan is not the only family member of rights activists who has been unable to travel abroad. Earlier this month, 21-year-old Liu Yuyang, son of Beijing rights lawyer Liu Xiaoyuan, had his passport application for study abroad rejected due to a lock put on his application by the Beijing municipal police department. Furthermore, it is widely known that Chinese authorities often hold activists’ children hostage to coerce cooperation from their parents.
The Human Rights Foundation (HRF) is a nonpartisan nonprofit organization that promotes and protects human rights globally, with a focus on closed societies. HRF’s International Council includes human rights advocates George Ayittey, Palden Gyatso, Mutabar Tadjibaeva, Elie Wiesel, and Harry Wu.