On July 9, 2015, the Chinese government began to purge human rights lawyers, activists, and legal personnel by illegally sending them to prison. This became known as the 709 crackdown. As a Beijing-based human rights lawyer who has represented people facing forced eviction for rural land demolition projects, dissidents, and a large number of Falun Gong practitioners, Wang Quanzhang was treated brutally by the authorities and was made to disappear for six months after the 709 incident. He continues to be illegally detained to this day.
Even though his wife, Li Wenzu, has been closely monitored, put under house arrest, tracked, intimidated, harassed, threatened, evicted, and interrogated by the authorities, she has actively called on the international community to help solve the human rights crisis facing China’s lawyers since 2015.
This article is Part Three of an exclusive interview.
Reporter: “Leave the dressing table and take on the thugs” is a slogan for the rights of the 709 families, but the red bucket, how did you come up with it?
Li Wenzu: Thinking back, we decided that if we would go to the detention center in the future, we should dress nicely and take pictures frequently. We felt that wearing red clothes is the most festive, and by wearing them we could express our positive and optimistic state. The people in the detention center would be confused: “Your husband has been arrested, and you are still in such a good mood?!”
We wanted to tell them that we wives have not been scared away and have not given in! We are proud of our husbands! But I don’t particularly like to wear red clothes. I was thinking if it was possible to just add a little bit of red, such as red shoes, red bags, earrings, or something? I often wear a pair of red shoes.
On June 6th, we went to Tianjin to inquire about the progress of the case. First, we went to a small shopping center and bought a lot of things — bracelets, ropes, umbrellas, and others, all red. Later, we suddenly saw many red buckets. I thought they were beautiful, and we could also use them to sit on sometimes. We went to a place to post our husbands’ names and supporting words, e.g. “love you,” “waiting for you,” etc.
Unexpectedly, we were arrested because of these red buckets. The police came up and pointed at me and said: “Come to the police station with me!” Why? He said that I was suspected of disturbing the public order. I asked how I disturbed it. He said that I had a red bucket! I took a red bucket and disturbed the social order! This red bucket has become a “tool” and evidence for our detention! (Laughs)
Reporter: As a family member of the 709 lawyers, have you been monitored?
Li Wenzu: Yes, today I came out for an interview. When I walked out of the door, I was photographed by the Public Security Bureau downstairs. (Laughs) It happens every day. At first, if a family called to find a lawyer, as soon as they contacted the lawyer, someone immediately put pressure on the lawyer to back off: “You don’t want to mix with the 709 incident!” Then, we knew that our phones and WeChat messages were being monitored.
Between August 2nd and August 5th, the days for the hearing of four lawyers in the 709 case, I was under house arrest and not allowed to go out.
I live on the fifth floor. They rented an apartment on the second floor, apartment 201, and watched me 24 hours a day. That day, I walked right into 201, and sure enough, I saw a computer screen and four cameras, all facing my home!
I slowly looked downstairs and found a white box on the door opposite my apartment. There was a black dot in the middle. It turned out to be a secret camera. I am a woman with a child, and you spend so much effort on us! It’s ridiculous.
From August to September, for almost two months, the Public Security Bureau closely monitored us and followed me. When I went downstairs, six public security officers immediately came up. I went to the supermarket to buy food, and they surrounded me in a circle.
For a while, they set up two tents at the door of my building.
Reporter: Will you tell your classmates about your husband? It is estimated that everyone saw his involvement on CCTV news.
Li Wenzu: After Quanzhang was arrested, the public security officers went to my hometown and told the relatives that my father’s son-in-law of the seventh daughter, a counter-revolutionary, had been arrested and they deliberately spread these rumors to smear his name.
I feel proud of what he did, and I think everyone should know about it. What are people so afraid of? I should let people know what kind of person my husband is and what kind of society we are in. So much fake news.
So, every day I tell my “circle of friends” what is going on with Quanzhang. In the beginning, everyone was surprised and confused. Later, those people who I thought would not understand me gave me support and encouragement. Therefore, I feel that what we have done and what we have to bear must be told. The real information will let people make a comparison and judgment. In fact, Chinese people are not bad or indifferent, but I think they have been deceived, live in lies, and don’t know the truth.
Reporter: What was your image of the ideal husband before marriage?
Li Wenzu: I chose a man’s character before marriage. Character is the most important. I found Quanzhang to be kind, honest, and very responsible. He is very caring and loving toward his parents.
I was particularly touched by his care for his mother. He calls his parents every week. As an adult, he was very busy, but when he called his mother, he would talk for a long time, in a very gentle and patient voice.
In 2015, he brought his parents to Beijing for treatment. During that time, he came home at midnight on Saturday night. At 7 a.m., he went to Daxing to see his parents. He only had very little time to see his parents. Sometimes, when he was on a business trip back to Beijing, he went directly to his parents.
But at the time, I did complain. I am very embarrassed to think of it now. I did not tolerate him well. I often complained that he spent less time with us. I cared too little about him. He flies across the country. He is so busy in taking cases and takes care of us, wife and child, as well as his parents. He has shouldered everything by himself! He has not been around for more than a year. I think about him every night and I think about his goodness. I will tell him when he comes back: “Sorry, I didn’t understand you before!” (Wiping away tears)