She has counted the days her father has been detained. On Oct. 18, when he was released from a Chinese prison, he had been held for 5,475 days. He was then immediately shuttled to a brainwashing center, where he was held for 7 more days.
On Friday, Oct. 24, prisoner of conscience Wang Zhiwen was released from the brainwashing center—to house arrest. The days that Wang is not a free man are still adding up.
His daughter, Danielle Wang of upstate New York, has worked for the past 15 years to try to free Wang.
Wang Zhiwen was arrested in the pre-dawn hours of July 20, 1999. After a show trial in December 1999, he was sentenced to sixteen years in prison, of which he served 15.
His “crime”: Wang had served in Beijing as the volunteer coordinator for practitioners of the spiritual practice Falun Gong. When the Chinese Communist Party’s campaign to eradicate Falun Gong was launched, police scooped him up on the theory that he was a “key” member.
In prison, Wang lost all his teeth due to beatings. Both collarbones were broken and never set correctly. Pieces of bamboo were jammed under his fingernails. He was not allowed to sleep for long periods of time. He was forced to do slave labor. His shackles weighed 53 pounds.
Just before he was released from prison, Wang suffered a stroke.
In a phone interview, Danielle said when she spoke to him the first day he was released from the brainwashing center, his speech was slurred. She says it is now starting to come back, although he is slow in responding when they talk.
Wang now has an apartment, and nearby live Danielle’s aunts. They cook his meals using a pressure cooker so that his food is soft.
When Danielle calls, her aunts and her father are very guarded in what they say, as though they believe they are being listened to. She has learned that 5 surveillance cameras have been installed outside the apartment, but her family won’t talk about what other measures have been taken to monitor her father.
When Danielle’s father answers her questions about his situation, she can tell he is thinking of her when he responds. She says he is trying to reassure her.
Her birthday was on Oct. 28. When she spoke to Wang on the 27th—the 28th in Beijing—he wished her a happy birthday. The next day, when it was the 28th in the United States, he did the same thing.
Wang told her he had missed wishing her a happy birthday for so many years, he didn’t want to miss the chance to do so now. He was sorry he could not be there for her birthdays.
Danielle said at that moment she cried, overwhelmed with sweet and sour feelings.
Her husband Jeff told Wang that when he came to the United States, Jeff would ask him for Danielle’s hand in marriage. Wang laughed loudly and said he was very pleased at the idea.
Danielle believes the exposure in the press of her father’s case, along with intensive calling to the brainwashing center demanding his release, resulted in Wang getting let out 3 days early—officials had originally said he would be held for 10 days, not the 7 he served.
She is not easing up now. She is using every channel she can find, looking for ways to bring pressure on the Chinese regime to release her father. She wants him to be free to join her in New York.
At a press conference held outside the Chinese Embassy in Washington, D.C. on Oct. 24—the day her father was released from the brainwashing center—Danielle said that by working to release her father, she is also publicizing the cases of tens of thousands of other Falun Gong practitioners who are being detained and suffering torture and abuse.
Once here, Danielle wants Wang to get the care he needs. In a short video, Wang’s back is noticeably hunched over. He has diabetes and high blood pressure, and is still recovering from the stroke.
Danielle moved to the United States in 1998 to go to school, not knowing that was the beginning of the long separation from her father.
She says she has been separated from him for more than half of her life—over 6,000 days. Danielle looks forward to the time she can start counting the days that her father is once again a free man.