In June 2002, my father traveled to Vietnam to meet with two fellow labor activists. They were conferring over lunch in a restaurant near the China-Vietnam border when several men speaking Chinese ordered them into a car. Beaten, blindfolded and gagged, my father and his two colleagues were abducted into China by boat. They were left in a Buddhist temple in Guangxi Province for the Chinese authorities.
My father was held incommunicado for six months, in contravention of China's own Criminal Procedural Law, after which he was charged with "offenses of espionage" and the "conduct of terrorism." His "trial" lasted one day and was held behind closed doors. During the proceedings, my father was not allowed to speak, nor was any evidence presented or witnesses called. He was convicted and sentenced to life in prison. The identities of his abductors have never been discovered.
Since his imprisonment, my family, with the assistance of lawyers, fellow activists and friends, has brought his case to the international community. The United States, Canada, Taiwan, the European Union, the United Nations and Amnesty International have all called upon the Chinese government to release him. Despite our efforts, though, my father remains in prison. In the year leading up to the Summer Olympics in Beijing, we thought the world's scrutiny of China would motivate the Communist Party to demonstrate its professed modernization by addressing its problematic record on human rights. In our most misguided moments of naive optimism, we even entertained the notion that China would release people like my father to quell international criticism. Instead, the Games came and went, and the dominant theme of the world's media was China's success in the medal standings and as a world power. Forgotten were the many prisoners of conscience, such as my father, who continue to suffer in China's prisons and labor camps.
As the world celebrates the arrival of a new year, my father is beginning his seventh year of incarceration. He is no longer the young man who founded the overseas democracy movement; today, he is in his 60s, and since his imprisonment his health has deteriorated steadily. He suffers from chronic phlebitis, severe allergies and untreated depression. He has had three strokes in the past six years, all while being kept in solitary confinement. He is allowed one family visit per month that can last about 30 minutes. Our relatives have spent thousands and thousands of dollars to go halfway around the world to see him. While my father languished in prison, my grandfather passed away. My grandmother, who is unable to travel overseas, prays every day for his return, hoping against hope that she may live to see her son again.
This year, before I resume my schooling, I hope to raise awareness about my father's case and tell his story to remind people that despite China's economic success, it is still a country that has yet to embrace universally accepted values of human rights. Any government that jails its own people for political dissent still has a long way to go to become a respected member of the international community.