‘What You Do When You Have No Choice’

Geng He, wife of rights lawyer Gao Zhisheng, on the attempted escape and capture of Bao Zhuoxuan
By Juliet Song
Juliet Song
Juliet Song
October 22, 2015 Updated: October 23, 2015

Bao Zhuoxuan, the son of two Chinese rights activists, was captured on Oct. 6 while trying to escape China. Six years ago, Geng He, the wife of a prominent rights lawyer, along with the couple’s two children, went along a similar route—though in her case, she managed to escape successfully.

Bao is the 16-year-old son of Wang Yu, a rights defense lawyer detained by the Party since its July crackdown on the community of which she is a part; his father is Bao Longjun, another activist. Bao Zhuoxuan was reported to be hunted down by Chinese police who crossed the border into Burma, and then taken to Inner Mongolia and put under tight surveillance.

Geng He, in a recent interview with Epoch Times, expressed great sympathy with the child and his failed attempt at fleeing China.

Gao Zhisheng, her husband, was also a prominent human rights lawyer in China, but was targeted by the Chinese authorities after he wrote three open letters to the Communist Party leadership, urging them to end the persecution of Falun Gong, a spiritual discipline that has been persecuted by the Party for the last 16 years.

Wang Yu case bares a number of similarities to that of Gao: she is a prominent rights lawyer who took many sensitive cases, including famous scholar llham Tohti and Falun Gong adherents; both were personally targeted by the Communist Party; and both had their families threatened and harassed for their work.

On July 2, in the city of Sanhe, Hebei Province, she was dragged out of a court by policemen and thrown into the street when attempting to defend two Falun Gong adherents—Wang Zhanqing and Ma Weishan.

Wang was apprehended this July, when the Party’s security agencies launched a massive crackdown against the rights defense community, arresting over 290 lawyers and dissidents. Her husband, Bao Longjun, and her son, Bao Zhuoxuan, were arrested at the Beijing Capital Airport on July 8, on the day that Zhuoxuan was set to fly to Australia for his studies.

After that, Bao Zhuoxuan was mostly put under police surveillance, and his passport and key to the family home in Beijing was confiscated.

Geng He said she believed the child chose to escape because there was no other option. “It’s what you do when you have no choice,” just like her escape six years ago, she said.

Before their flight, Geng and her children were also put under close surveillance by Party security officials.

“Six police moved into my home. We weren’t allowed to close the doors when using the restroom, or turn off the lamps when sleeping… In total, more than 100 policemen took turns watching us every day around the clock,” Geng He.

She added: “When my daughter was in school, the police sat behind her. No one at school dared to speak to her.” The teacher warned the other children that if they lent Geng Ge, the daughter, their cell phones, or expressed any sympathy, they’d be handed over to the police. Her daughter was under such mental pressure that she at one point attempted suicide with a knife.

Geng He was finally able to bring her children to the United States, after she received a note written by a friend, handed to her from one of the street sellers outside her home. She used public phones to call numbers previously provided, who told her the next place to go. “I preferred to believe the strangers. What lay ahead was better than going back, even though I had no idea what it was,” she said.

When they took the train to cross from Yunnan into Burma, she hid in the restroom for hours as police came to check passenger ID cards.

Even after they arrived in Thailand, she was still frightened every time she heard a knock on the door. For fear of being captured and sent back to China, the family didn’t dare to step out the door. There was no television or toys for the children. “Once my daughter ran away and disappeared for 30 minutes,” Geng He said. “When she came back we hugged and cried. I said that our escape from Beijing has been so difficult.”

Bao Zhuoxuan has not been as fortunate. After his failed attempt to escape, it is likely that the Communist Party will intensify its surveillance over him.

With reporting by Liang Bo.

Juliet Song