Human rights lawyer Wang Yu and husband Bao Longjun, who were both detained in a massive nationwide crackdown on rights lawyers and activists in July 2015, have been prevented from sending money out of the country to finance their son’s studies.
Fellow rights lawyers, many of whom were also detained and hit with a travel ban on themselves and their families during the crackdown say they had experienced similar difficulties, leaving them unable to provide for their student offspring.
Bao Zhuoxuan, also known by his nickname Bao Mengmeng, was just 16 when his passport was confiscated in the wake of his parents’ arrest on the night of July 9, 2015, scuppering his plans to pursue an education overseas.
He later tried to escape across the border from the southwestern Chinese province of Yunnan into northern Myanmar in the company of two rights activists posing as tourists, but all three were detained and handed over to the Chinese authorities.
Bao’s application for a passport was eventually granted, and he is currently at university in Melbourne.
But when his parents went to transfer money to Australia for the first time, to meet his expenses, they found that the payment wouldn’t go through.
“I went to the bank to send money to my son, but they said it had been blocked, and that I couldn’t make the transfer,” Wang told RFA. “I don’t think the account has been frozen, because the bank said I could deposit and withdraw funds with no problem.”
“The bank employee told me that they don’t know what is going on, but some other people have been subjected to these restrictions on moving funds overseas, too,” Wang said.
“I think it has to do with the July 2015 case against us, but that’s a guess. [The bank] said they don’t know what is actually happening,” she said.
Second lawyer blocked
Beijing rights lawyer Liu Xiaoyuan has previously said he was subjected to similar restrictions when he tried to wire money to his son to pay for tuition and daily living expenses at an overseas university.
Bao Longjun said that shortly after trying to send the money, he received a call from the state security police, who promised to try and sort out the problem.
“My son has been overseas for two months now, and he doesn’t have much money left,” Bao told RFA. “We wanted to send him some more … but it wouldn’t go through.”
“The state police called me to find out what was happening, and said they would sort it out.”
Bao said such restrictions were unacceptable.
“He’s going to be overseas for several years … we have to be able to send him money,” he said.
Meanwhile, Wang says she and Bao remain under a travel ban, and have been unable to return to practicing law since being released on bail, in spite of the fact that the year-long bail restrictions have already expired.
“Legally speaking, I should be able to practice my profession, but the way things are at the moment, it doesn’t look good,” she said. “I am working hard in that direction, though.”
“Neither of us has a job right now, but we should be able to go back to work, from a legal point of view, now that the bail period is over,” she said.
A Hunan-based rights activist who knows the couple said they have been under various restrictions since their release from a police detention center.
“Legally, Wang Yu should be at complete liberty, but under this abnormal political system … she still doesn’t really have her freedom back,” the friend said. “She is still subjected to various forms of monitoring.”
Bao Zhuoxuan’s departure in January was part of a plea bargain struck with the authorities that led to his and Wang Yu’s “confession” to subversion charges and their subsequent release on “bail,” to be held under surveillance as a family.
Wang and Bao once worked for the now-shuttered Fengrui law firm that was the first target of police raids and detentions in July 2015 that broadened into a nationwide operation targeting more than 300 lawyers, law firm staff, and associated rights activists for detention, professional sanctions, house arrest, and travel bans, including for family members.
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