Bao Zhuoxuan, the son of Chinese rights lawyer couple Wang Yu and Bao Longjun, has applied for political asylum in the United States after being held in an immigration detention center last year.
Bao arrived in the U.S. in March 2020 from Australia, where he had eventually been allowed to study by the ruling Chinese Communist Party (CCP), who had detained the entire family in July 2015, later using his well-being as a threat to force a televised “confession” out of Wang.
He took the decision to leave Australia after an unknown person contacted his host family and asked them for his personal details, as well as to hack into his personal computer, Bao told RFA’s Mandarin Service on Thursday.
But as his mother was given an “International Women of Courage” award from the U.S. State Department for her human rights work, Bao was out on bail awaiting a court decision on his asylum application after being held in ICE’s Adelanto detention center, a former prison northeast of Los Angeles.
His attorneys declined to comment on his asylum application, while inquiries about his initial detention by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and his subsequent detention at Adelanto went unanswered by ICE and the State Department on Thursday.
Bao said he couldn’t comment on his ongoing application, but spoke to RFA instead about how his parents, prominent rights advocates who have risked their personal safety to defend some of the most vulnerable members of Chinese society, were an inspiration.
“My parents never indoctrinated me to oppose the CCP,” Bao said. “They just told me stories about some of their cases, people whose homes had been forcibly demolished, for example, or people who had been beaten up by the authorities just for filing a petition.”
“The education the CCP instilled in me, and the reports in their media, their newspapers, was all very biased,” he said. “Some people may be very rich, but the evidence of oppression is everywhere.”
“People are suffering; people we don’t know about.”
Bao was soon to experience violence at the hands of an authoritarian state.
On July 9, 2015, both of his parents were arrested in a police raid on the family home, when Bao was just 15.
Wang and her legal activist husband Bao Longjun were detained in a massive nationwide crackdown on rights lawyers and activists in July 2015.
Bao Zhuoxuan was just 16 when his passport was confiscated in the wake of his parents’ arrest on the night of July 9, 2015 at the start of a nationwide police operation targeting the legal profession that became know as the “709 crackdown.”
He had planned to complete his high school education overseas.
The teenager later tried to escape across the border from the southwestern Chinese province of Yunnan into northern Myanmar with a couple of fellow activists posing as tourists, but was caught and the activists who tried to help him detained.
He eventually arrived in Australia to complete his studies in January 2018, before deciding to travel to the U.S.
‘Hell for anyone with a conscience’
Zhou Fengsuo, the founder of the U.S.-based rights group Humanitarian China, was waiting in Thailand to help Bao with his escape attempt.
“This kid is an innocent. Why should he have had to make such a dangerous escape attempt?” he said. “This country is hell for anyone with a conscience.”
Bao was later used to put pressure on Wang to make a televised “confession.” She was released on bail in August 2016.
“My parents love me too much,” Bao told RFA. “The CCP used me as a threat, which is vicious, very nasty.”
“I had never thought I would have to wait that long to see her again.”
For Bao, the extent and complexity of the CCP’s power over the Chinese people is beyond his power to describe.
He was unwilling to comment further on the events of the past six years.
Wang was recently redetained during the online ceremony for the “International Women of Courage” award, and again when she went to defend Shanghai-based activist Chen Jianfang, Los Angeles Times Beijing bureau chief Alice Su said via her Twitter account on Friday.
“Wang Yu is released,” Su wrote. “Officers w/o identification burst into her room, took her to ‘make notes’ at the police station & held her several hours w phone confiscated. Daily life for the brave few still speaking of human rights in China.”
Speaking to RFA, Bao wondered if he could live up their example.
“They aren’t doing this for themselves, but to fight for the due dignity of those who are suffering and those who are persecuted by the CCP,” he said. “This is a brilliant cause.”
“If I’m always thinking about myself, maybe I’m being too selfish?” he said, adding that he doesn’t know when he’ll get to see Wang again.
“I don’t even know whether our efforts are in vain; if they can even put a small dent [in the power of the CCP],” Bao said. “Will they get people thinking about [the government] just a little bit?”
“Will they mean that the international community wakes up to the human rights situation, and the appalling behavior of the CCP?”
“It’s like a cancer, a tumor — can it be eradicated with human know-how? The main thing is that we are trying.”
Reported by Xue Xiaoshan for RFA’s Mandarin Service. Translated and edited by Luisetta Mudie.