Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Ding Zilin Recalls 74 Days of House Arrest

As dissident Liu Xiaobo was being awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, other dissidents in China faced lengthy period of isolation and house arrest at the hand of the government. Many of them lost contact with outside world for weeks, if not months, of time. Ding Zilin, founder of "Tiananmen Mothers", and her husband Jiang Peikun are no exception. They were forced into house arrest for 74 days between October 8, when the news of Nobel prize first broke, and December 20.

They recently published a detailed account of their experience.

On October 8, the couple were in Wuxi, a southern city, when they waited for the news on their computer. Immediately after the announcement, they received a phone call from a foreign media for comment. Ding Zilin managed only a couple of sentences before the phone went dead. Soon, their internet connection was also cut. But they were still able to contact a few friends with cell phone and drafted a statement in the name of "Tiananmen Mothers". They managed to send out the statement by email from the apartment of a relative's.

Yet no sooner as the email was transmitted four strangers, self-identified as local officers for national security, rushed into the apartment to confiscate the computer and USB drives. In the ensuring struggle, Ding Zilin fainted and fell. She had to be hospitalized.

For weeks, the couple were confined at Wuxi, with their request of returning to Beijing denied and without any computer, phone or cell phone. Their relatives were forced to sign an agreement not to provide any assistance for them. Ding Zilin suffered from memory loss. The doctor who examined her said she had had a concussion.

In November, they learned that some of their friends had received email from their account, which appeared to be forged by their handlers.

After much protesting and bargaining, they were finally allowed to return Beijing on December 14. But at the last minute, they were forbidden to return home and had to continue their house arrest in a secret location in the suburb. Not until December 20, the day before their respective birthdays on 20 and 21, when they were finally allowed to return home and see their surviving son.

The details of their ordeal, written by the couple in Chinese, can be read here.

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