Beijing (AsiaNews) - After losing her eyesight and hearing to torture, a Chinese dissident travelled 5,000 kilometres to find a safe place and hide from police violence. Li Guizhi was not allowed to enter Hong Kong to attend the 1 July pro-democracy rally in Hong Kong and suffered for it. Her tragic story encapsulates the human rights situation in today's China.
After Li was turned back at the border with Hong Kong, she was arrested and held in a 'black jail' (an extralegal detention centre where the authorities keep dissidents and religious leaders without trial) in a hotel basement in Laishui County, Baoding, Hebei province, she told the South China Morning Post.
With the help of fellow dissidents, she was able to flee and find a safe house last Wednesday after a 5,000 journey. "By that time I was very nervous. My heart is not very well. I have lost my appetite completely," she told the paper.
The authorities went after Li, 57, when she petitioned the government over the suspicious death of her son, a policeman, who was killed in 2006 because he had found out that a top police official was involved with illegal drugs.
Petitioning is formally recognised in Chinese law, but in practice it is denied. Since complaints are usually about abuses by the authorities, especially at the local level, the latter use the power of the state to go after petitioners.
On 1 July, Li was arrested at the border Shenzhen border crossing and taken to a black jail. "There were six men in black suits, bringing handcuffs to arrest me," she said.
In the "black jail" she was given injections that were "for her asthma", she was told, but she began to feel increasingly unwell.
During her detention, officials tried to force her to sign a contract agreeing to stop petitioning about her son's case, in exchange for a job for her daughter, but she refused.
After her escape, Hong Kong-based People's Rights Union of China helped her find a safe place to hide.
With a 'red arrest warrant' on her head, Li cut and dyed her hair and began wearing glasses.
Despite her impairment, she boarded a train that took her thousands of kilometres away from where she was in danger.
Still, "I will continue to fight for" my son, she said, "even if I have only one breath left".