Chinese human rights lawyer Xie Yang may have been officially released "on bail" after pleading guilty to subversion charges at a court in Hunan, but his wife says that, far from regaining his liberty, he is now under house arrest in a secret location. Chen Guiqiu, who narrowly escaped repatriation with the couple's two daughters after seeking
asylum in Bangkok, told RFA's Mandarin Service that the best she can do is raise their children in a free country:
RFA: We heard that Xie Yang has been released. Have you been in touch with him?
Chen Guiqiu: He may have been let out of jail, but he hasn't really regained his liberty. I had a very brief phone conversation with him, but he said it was very inconvenient to talk then, and I haven't heard from him since. He isn't genuinely free. I told him that we're all fine here in the U.S. He was using someone else's cell phone that a state security police officer had taken from someone. He is with his parents right now. I don't know where the state security police have taken him. He's been 'disappeared,' just like a lot of the other July 2015 people. He's not free. They are pretending to set him free. It's a joke; I want to make that very clear. He must be under unimaginable pressure.
RFA: So what do you think his status is right now?
Chen Guiqiu: It's very common for people detained in the July 2015 crackdown on lawyers to wind up detained in a secret location, accompanied by state security police at all times.
RFA: Where do you think they might be holding him?
Chen Guiqiu: I don't know. All I know is that they get transferred from a detention center, where you know where they are, to an unknown location. Nobody knows where he is.
RFA: What are your plans now that you are here in the U.S.?
Chen Guiqiu: To live a good life. To find a job, and raise my kids, and enjoy my freedom. I really appreciate the freedom you have here.
RFA: How about Xie Yang?
Chen Guiqiu: I hope that he will be unconditionally released, with no controls or restrictions from anyone. A lot of the people involved in the July 2015 crackdown are still under house arrest. This is extremely disappointing.
RFA: What is your view of your husband's guilty plea?
Chen Guiqiu: Neither of his defense lawyers, Chen Jiangang and Liu Zhengqing, have been allowed to meet with Xie Yang since they visited him in February 2017. I don't know what took place between the end of February and May 8. Nobody knows what sort of duress or coercion he was under. In January 2015, Xie Yang issued a declaration saying that, should he ever 'confess,' then it would only be because he was under some kind of duress. So I think that between the end of February and May 8, he was put under some kind of intolerable pressure, the details of which we don't yet know. I think that's the only way he would have come to such a decision.
RFA: What made you decide to flee China?
Chen Guiqiu: I didn't flee. I was prevented from leaving the country. [The authorities] were the ones who acted illegally. Without any paperwork whatsoever, they designated me and my eldest daughter as 'persons likely to harm national security.' I am not aware of any way in which I have ever harmed national security. Then, when I tried to protect my rights using legal channels, they refused to accept the case. They broke the law first.
RFA: So you left to ensure your family's safety? How did you get from China to Thailand?
Chen Guiqiu: I'm sorry, I can't really tell you about that.
RFA: How are your two daughters now?
Chen Guiqiu: They're both doing fine. One is 15, the other is four.
RFA: How did the Chinese police manage to track you down in Thailand?
Chen Guiqiu: I have no idea. I still have no idea. I switched off my cell phones, and I never went online. I really don't know what happened there.
RFA: What happened after they found you?
Chen Guiqiu: We were put in immigration detention, and then there was a hearing. It was the immigration police who arrested us, and put us in their detention center.
RFA: So how did the U.S. embassy officials find you?
Chen Guiqiu: I don't know. I really had no idea what was going on in the outside world. I had had no internet access, nor any phone contact with anyone since arriving in Thailand, so I have no idea how they managed to come to my assistance. I may have been the whole point of it all, but I really don't know the details.
RFA: One detail that has been reported is that when you were taken by U.S. officials to the airport in Bangkok, there was an altercation between U.S., Thai and Chinese officials who wanted to take you back to China. Is that correct?
Chen Guiqiu: This report didn't come from an interview with me, but through other channels, so I still can't answer that, I'm afraid. I'm sorry.
RFA: The U.S. government put quite a lot of effort into rescuing you. What is your view of that?
Chen Guiqiu: I am very grateful to the Trump administration and his team. I would like to thank all of their staff and members of Congress, including Congressman Chris Smith. It was partly that I am the wife of a human rights lawyer, because they aim to protect human rights, but also because they are very keen to protect the human rights of their own citizens. My youngest daughter is a U.S. citizen.
RFA: So do you think that is the reason you were rescued by the U.S. government?
Chen Guiqiu: It definitely had something to do with it. My daughter was born in the U.S.
RFA: When was that?
Chen Guiqiu: I spent a year in the United States, and that was the year she was born.
Reported by Wang Yun for RFA's Mandarin Service, and by Ng Yik-tung and Sing Man for the Cantonese Service. Translated and edited by Luisetta Mudie.