A 10-year-old girl who was once dubbed "China's youngest political prisoner" has penned an open letter to world leaders calling for her father's release. Zhang Anni, daughter of detained veteran dissident Zhang Lin, is now at school in the United States along with her sister Ruli after being held under house arrest and removed from two schools in the eastern province of Anhui, sparking protests that she was being punished for her father's activism. In the letter, which is addressed to U.S. President Barack Obama, Chinese President Xi Jinping, the U.S. Congress, and the European, British and Canadian parliaments, the two sisters say charges against Zhang Lin are "groundless."
We are Zhang Lin's daughters, Zhang Ruli and Zhang Anni. Our father is currently detained in No. 1 Detention Center of Bengbu City, Anhui Province. His trial is set for Dec. 18. This time he is accused of "gathering a mob to disturb public order." This accusation, however, is completely groundless. We strongly demand that the Chinese government release our father unconditionally, as soon as possible!
We call on and urge United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, U.S. President Barack Obama, President Xi Jinping and other heads of state, parliaments, and human rights organizations to pay attention to this blatant human rights abuse. Your attention could cause our father to be released!
In February of this year, our father took Anni to transfer to another primary school in Hefei. We were planning a new start, but to our surprise, our father was taken by local police three days later. With no guardians, my sister, 10-year-old Zhang Anni, was imprisoned by four male strangers for several hours. After that, Anni was frightened, and she would only stay at home and refuse to go out.
After this incident, our father sought justice for his daughter, and was supported by many internet users in China after he released the information. This April, Chinese netizens spontaneously gathered around Hefei, seeking justice for our father and Anni, in the hopes that Anni could return to school. Contrary to their wishes, they did not receive justice. Rather, these friends were subjected to different levels of detention as a punishment. In addition, my father and Anni were monitored by Bengbu state security police 24 hours a day since that time.
Because Anni could not attend school, our father's friends contacted the president of Women's Rights Without Frontiers, Reggie Littlejohn, hoping that she could shelter Anni and allow her to go to school. To our surprise, during the process of contacting Reggie, our father was arrested and detained.
In desperation, our father's friend, uncle Yao Cheng, escorted us to Shanghai, but he was taken away by local police on the first day we arrived in Shanghai, and has been detained until today. After we left China, two more uncles were detained because of Anni, namely, Li Huaping and Zhou Weilin. The Chinese authorities are still hunting for uncle Chai Baowen. Now, we are living a free life in Reggie's home in the United States, but our father and our uncles still cannot see the light of the day from their Chinese prison.
Appeal for release
Prior to this, because our father Zhang Lin has adhered to the path of democracy, he has been imprisoned four times during his life and lost his freedom for a total of thirteen years. Because of the long-term imprisonment and the abuses he had in prison, our father has suffered many diseases, from which he has not been cured. Because of this adherence to the path of democracy, our father dedicated almost his entire life, but finally he still got mired in imprisonment, and his children have been forced out of their home country.
Now, we are very concerned that his physical condition can no longer endure the torture of jailing. After meeting our father, the lawyer said that his physical condition is now has greatly worsened. When he was most recently detained, his left eye was almost blind due to infection; now the weather is getting cold, the detention center is cold and wet, and his joints are probably suffering bursts of pain. Not only is he suffering physical pain, but the more difficult is the mental torture. He has not done anything wrong, but again and again has suffered great persecution.
Therefore, we make our appeal: We ask people from all over the world to pay attention to Zhang Lin, Yao Cheng, Zhou Weilin, Li Huaping and Chai Baowen, and many other imprisoned Chinese political prisoners, and urge the Chinese government to unconditionally release them as soon as possible!
Finally, as two girls in exile in a foreign land, for our father and uncles in prison, we cry out to you again: Please focus on them! Please use your influence, because your attention can make them free!
Ruli and Anni Zhang, daughters of Zhang Lin
Translated by Linghou Ba.