Beijing (AsiaNews) – China, with Myanmar’s help, has been able to seize the 16-year-old son of a lawyer who went missing on 9 July after she was summoned by the authorities.
Bao Zhuoxuan, also known as Bao Mengmeng, and two men helping him were taken away by local police from a guesthouse in Mong La, a Myanmar border town, said activist Fengsuo Zhou.
"The plan was for him to travel to Thailand and I would meet him there and help him seek refugee entry into the United States," said Zhou who lives in San Francisco.
The two men helping him were Tang Zhishun, an engineer from Beijing, and Xing Qingxian, a human rights activist in the southwest city of Chengdu.
“We know that the [Chinese government’s] intention is to use him as a hostage against his parents, both of them famous human rights defenders,” Zhou added.
Chinese authorities routinely put pressure on activists by targeting their family members.
Bao’s mother is Wang Yu, a lawyer who disappeared during a government crackdown against lawyers known for their work on behalf of ordinary citizens, religious minorities and political dissidents.
Starting in July, police took into custody some 300 lawyers "for questioning" in various cities, with many of them still in prison. Wang is among those still in detention.
Zhang Kai, a Christian lawyer, was also picked up during the crackdown, along with a number of fellow lawyers, as they tried to stop through the courts a campaign of cross removal in the southern province of Zhejiang.
Police detained Bao and his father at Beijing's international airport on their way to Australia, where the boy was to attend high school. Bao was released after two days, but his passport was seized, Zhou said. Now both of his parents are still missing.
Wang Yu is “very courageous, outspoken, one of the best human rights lawyers in China,” Zhou said; “she was arrested exactly for that reason.”
Despite great pressure from the government on lawyers, some members of the profession seem bent on still speaking out.
A group of 68 Chinese lawyers issued an open letter to the government, calling on the authorities to protect the teenager, and bring to justice those who violated the law by arresting him.
“Chinese police,” the letter said, “should immediately cease the harassment of Bao Zhuoxuan and the family members of other lawyers [who] disappeared during the ongoing crackdown on lawyers that began on July 9.”
Likewise, “They should also cease illegally obstructing Chinese human rights lawyers and activists, and their family members, from leaving the country, and guarantee the right of Chinese citizens to exit and enter their homeland."
Last but not least, the statement calls on the international community to express "strong concern" about what is happening in China.