As Northern Ireland’s First Minister and deputy First Minister prepare to travel to China for the first of two proposed trips, we are pleased to publish this guest post, courtesy of Amnesty International, by LI Jianhong (pen-name ‘Xiao Qiao’).
She is an exiled freelance writer who longs to return home. As a new generation of leaders take charge of China’s Communist Party she is not optimistic for change.
I used to expose government corruption as a journalist in Shanghai. But was forced to leave after endless harassment from the national security police and numerous brief detentions and periods of house arrest. In 2008, I accepted an invitation from the Swedish Culture Department, Sweden to visit as a guest writer. It took two months to persuade the police to let me go.
I am free in Sweden – free to speak, free to write. No longer stressed out by not knowing if the police will come to my house and harass me, or worried that my writing will bring harm to my family. Yet, I can’t help feeling lonely. I feel like a guest in a society that is so developed there is no way for me to contribute. I am on the outside.
I don’t want to be separated from my homeland, my relatives or my friends. I want to go back to mainland China despite the challenges. I have already tried twice via Hong Kong at the Shenzhen border but, despite holding a valid Chinese passport, I was denied entry! Since then my passport has expired and the Chinese embassy in Sweden refuses to issue me a new one.
A year ago my mother died from lung cancer. When she was ill I tried hard to persuade the Chinese Embassy to let me return and wish her a final farewell, but I got no response. Such pain and regret, nothing can compare. My two younger sisters are studying in Germany so my father now lives alone in Shanghai. He is over 70 years old, and I miss him terribly. I wish I could go back and take care of him.
I’m still touch with friends in China. Many are being closely watched by the authorities. Others, such as Feng Zhenghu and Hu Jia, are under house arrest.
I do my best to raise funds for political prisoners and their families, who face terrible financial hardship. Apart from that, all I can do is keep a eye on what’s happening to my friends and provide information about political prisoners to international human rights organizations such as Amnesty, the media, and democratic governments. I wish I could stand alongside activists in my own country and make it better.
I hope the new leadership in China will take the initiative and change, show the world a China we can be proud of. I wish China would resolve the trouble that arises from the June 4 crackdowns (Tiananmen Square anniversary). I want China to stop preventing people like me from returning home and stop preventing others, such as Liu Xiaobo, from leaving.
But I do not see any of the new dictators making these changes when my friends like Hu Jia are under house arrest to keep them quiet ahead of the leadership transition. And when a gentle woman like Liu Xia has spent two years under house arrest just because her husband won the Nobel Peace Prize.