'I Can't Bear to Read My Husband's Book'

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china-genghe-06302016.jpg Geng He, wife of human rights lawyer Gao Zhisheng, in undated, recent photo.
Photo courtesy of Geng He.

Dissident rights lawyer Gao Zhisheng, who remains under house arrest at an unknown location since his release from prison in August 2014, recently published a harrowing memoir of prison life as a way of "continuing resistance" to human rights violations by the ruling Chinese Communist Party. The book, titled "Stand Up China 2017," was launched on his behalf by his daughter Grace Geng, 23.

His wife Geng He, however, escaped to the U.S. with her son and daughter in January 2009. She recently spoke to RFA's Mandarin Service about her attempts to read the book, and about the couple's early relationship:

I didn't have the courage to read his book in detail. I skimmed through, and it took me a long time. I have only just come to the end of it now. Every time I picked it up, I was confronted with an image of Gao Zhisheng's bloodied body, as if I were watching a 3D movie. I kept putting it down and picking it up again and again.

Most of the book consists of Gao describing in minute detail how they persecuted him. It's very detailed, and you get a real sense of how it must have felt for him. He was totally helpless; somewhere on the border between life and death.

I can't bring myself to give you an example, because it's really too graphic. He describes the whole process of being tortured in great detail, and then he goes on to describe a whole lot more. I can only read a couple of sentences, then I have to shut the book again. Then I take another peek and read a bit more until I can't bear it any more. To this day, I haven't been able to read it from cover to cover, line by line.

I am focusing all of my energy and attention on our children. I can't afford to dwell on Gao Zhisheng too much. But as soon as the kids are asleep, and the evening stretches in front of me, my mind turns to Gao Zhisheng again, and I start imagining. My son once told me he'd seen his father in a dream, and he kept telling him not to let go of his hand, to hold tight now. So I still feel as if I should be speaking out on Gao's behalf, trying to help him in some way.

[When Gao and I got together] my parents tried to stop us from getting married. They told me they would cut off relations with me if I insisted on being with him. He was in Kashgar; I was in Urumqi. There is a huge distance between those two places, and they have the hukou registration system that would make it impossible to live together, because one city is bigger, and higher-ranking, than the other. We would basically be in a long-distance relationship with 3,000 kilometers between us. It was impossible to make it work at that time. If I went to live with him, I wouldn't be able to find a job, and if he came to me, he wouldn't have the Urumqi hukou, so he wouldn't be able to work there, either. In the end, he started selling vegetables, because you didn't need much capital to get started.

I was pretty downhearted at that time, because my family were dead-set against it. But I decided that he was the man I wanted, because he is such a good person, and I couldn't give him up.

Reported by Zhang Min for RFA's Mandarin Service. Translated and edited by Luisetta Mudie.


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