Target: Xu Liquan Tingzhang, Public Security Director for Anhui Province
Goal: Secure the release of an activist jailed for fighting for his daughter’s right to attend school
Chinese activist Zhang Lin has been imprisoned four times for his politics and protests, but his latest detention hits even closer to home: he has been jailed for peacefully protesting the Chinese government’s inexplicable decision to prevent his ten-year-old daughter from attending school. Peaceful protest is not a legitimate reason for imprisonment, and denying a child her education based on the actions of her parents is backward, ineffective, and wrong. Sign the petition demanding that Zhang Lin be freed.
The trouble began in February 2013, when Chinese authorities “removed Zhang Lin’s 10-year-old daughter from school and detained her for several hours,” Amnesty International reports. Even after she was freed, authorities continued to refuse to let the girl attend school. She and her father went back to Bengbu, Zhang Lin’s hometown, where they were held under house arrest. The girl was still not allowed to go to school.
In June Zhang Lin “escaped house arrest…and went to Beijing to protest against his daughter’s treatment.” Police escorted him back to Bengbu but assured him that his daughter would be allowed back to school and that “no other action would be taken.” This proved false on both counts, as Zhang Lin was taken into custody, then formally arrested nearly a month after his initial detention. He is charged with “gathering a crowd to disrupt order in a public place,” a crime which carries a maximum sentence of five years. In the meantime, his daughter has been relocated to the United States, where she is able to receive an education.
Human rights activists believe that Zhang Lin is being targeted due to his affiliation with the New Citizens’ Movement, an illegal movement in China that calls for democracy, civic responsibility, and political involvement. This fear appears well-founded given that thirty-seven people have been arrested because of their association with the movement. Nearly thirty more “have been criminally detained or subjected to enforced disappearance.”
Jailing a man for his peaceful political beliefs is never acceptable, and denying his daughter her basic human rights simply because of her family relationship to him is, if possible, even more despicable. Sign the petition and seek justice for Zhang Lin and his daughter.
Access to education is one of the most fundamental human rights. So is the right to peacefully protest or express dissenting political beliefs. The case of Zhang Lin, who was arrested on August 22, 2013 and charged with “gathering a crowd to disrupt order in a public place,” epitomizes the ways in which the Chinese legal system is failing its citizens and neglecting their rights.
Zhang Lin has been imprisoned four times for his activism and association with the New Citizens’ Movement, but his most recent arrest is all the more appalling because his ten-year-old daughter–a child with no agency over her father’s actions–has been roped into the situation. Denying Zhang Lin’s daughter her rightful education is a low blow, even for a government that takes no issue with jailing a man who simply disagrees with its policies. Aside from justifiably angering the girl’s father, what did the government possibly hope to achieve by targeting a ten-year-old? How is playground-level bullying convincing people–both within China and around the world–that China is mighty and holds the moral high ground?
There is only one appropriate course of action. Release Zhang Lin from prison immediately. In the meantime, ensure that he is free from torture and ill-treatment; he and his family have already suffered enough.
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Photo credit: jeffreylcohen via Flickr