It’s been a long, difficult road for Bao Zhouxuan, who has applied for asylum in the U.S. In March last year, the now 21-year-old arrived in California from Australia and was held in immigration detention for a month.
Bao Zhouxuan was given parole and then applied for asylum and now awaits a decision from an immigration court about his bid.
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For their human rights work, his parents — Wang Yu and Bao Longjun — were among the 200-plus rights lawyers and legal activists swept up and secretly detained during 2015 in what became known as the “709 crackdown.”
His mother, Wang, was one of China’s most prominent female human rights lawyers. For her rights work, she took on cases deemed politically sensitive by the ruling Chinese Communist Party (CCP), including that of Uyghur academic Ilham Tohti and persecuted Falun Gong practitioners.
Wang was featured in the 2016 documentary Hooligan Sparrow. See the trailer below.
After his parents were taken away by the authorities, the then 16-year-old attempted to flee to Thailand, but was caught with two Chinese rights activists along the way in Myanmar. Chinese police took them back to China where he was detained, beaten, and threatened.
Zhou Fengsuo, of the U.S.-based rights group Humanitarian China, was waiting in Thailand to assist Bao Zhouxuan with his failed attempt to escape.
“This kid is an innocent. Why should he have had to make such a dangerous escape attempt?” Zhou told Radio Free Asia (RFA). “This country is hell for anyone with a conscience.”
After being detained, Bao Zhouxuan was subjected to constant monitoring by security forces in Inner Mongolia. Meanwhile, both of his detained parents were subjected to harsh detention that included her being shackled and forcibly deprived of sleep.
Bao Zhouxuan’s mom forced to make a TV confession
After a year of abusive treatment, Wang made a forced TV confession where the Los Angeles Times reported that she blamed foreign forces for indoctrinating her with “ideas like Western universal values, democracy, and human rights, to attack and smear the government… I am Chinese. I can only accept the Chinese government’s leadership.”
The Los Angeles Times reported that, in return for her confession, her captors promised that her son would be allowed to travel abroad. She and her husband were eventually released in August 2016, but they were closely monitored by the state.
“My parents love me too much,” Bao Zhouxuan told RFA last week. “The CCP used me as a threat, which is vicious, very nasty,” he said.
Watch this video report made in 2018 where Wang Yu and Bao Longjun talk about their son.
Bao Zhouxuan left Australia for the US
After overcoming a range of hurdles, Bao Zhouxuan flew to Australia in 2018, but he still did not feel secure there. He left Australia for the U.S. after an unknown person contacted his host family and asked them for his personal details, as well as to hack into his personal computer, he told RFA.
He remains proud of his parents.
“They aren’t doing this for themselves, but to fight for the due dignity of those who are suffering and those who are persecuted by the CCP,” Bao said. “This is a brilliant cause.”
“If I’m always thinking about myself, maybe I’m being too selfish?” he said, adding that he doesn’t know when he’ll get to see his mother again.
“I don’t even know whether our efforts are in vain; if they can even put a small dent [in the power of the CCP],” Bao said. “Will they get people thinking about [the government] just a little bit?” he asked.
“Will they mean that the international community wakes up to the human rights situation, and the appalling behavior of the CCP?”
“It’s like a cancer, a tumor — can it be eradicated with human know-how? The main thing is that we are trying.”
Wang honored by US State Department
This month Wang was honored with an “International Women of Courage” award from the U.S. State Department but Chinese state security officers made sure she was not able to attend the event online.
Her rights work has been earlier recognized including by the American Bar Association (ABA) in 2016 while she was detained. The Chinese state forced her to record at least two video statements where she castigated and rejected the ABA award, reported HKFP.
Watch this 2019 Al Jazeera report on TV confessions in China here: