Renowned pro-democracy activist Zhang Lin, currently serving his fifth detention since 1989, has been sentenced to 3.5 years in jail for “gathering a crowd to disrupt order in a public place” while peacefully advocating for his young daughter’s right to attend school. He has initiated the appeal process.
In April 2013, Zhang Lin’s younger daughter Anni was kidnapped out of her elementary school and detained overnight, because of the pro-democracy activism of her father. Anni was ten years old at the time and has become known as “China’s youngest prisoner of conscience.” A crowd of activists gathered after government officials detained Anni overnight, then denied her the right to go to school. Anni had to leave China in order to receive an education in the United States. Women’s Rights Without Frontiers President Reggie Littlejohn and her husband Robert are now raising Anni and her older sister, Ruli, as part of their family in San Jose, California.
Littlejohn stated, “WRWF condemns the shocking three and a half year jail sentence of Zhang Lin. Zhang did what any father would do: he exposed the unprecedented and indefensible detention of his innocent, 10-year-old daughter, and he stood up for her right to go to school. The persecution of young children to silence their parents is official child abuse. It is the ultimate act of cowardice. I believe that this unjustifiably harsh sentence is part of the Chinese Communist Party’s wider crack-down on dissent. Why is the CCP so threatened by those who call for freedom, honesty and transparency in government? Could it be that they fear a loss of control? Zhang Lin is a hero. It is a sad commentary on the CCP that the greatest heroes in China are in jail.”
When the Tiananmen Square massacre occurred, Zhang Lin bravely refused to leave his post leading the pro-democracy protests in Bengbu City, Anhui Province. Immediately after June 4, he was jailed for a year and then spent two years in a Chinese forced labor camp. During this time, and in subsequent detentions, he was beaten and tortured. His health was broken to the point that after his fourth detention, his daughter Anni, who was eight years old at the time, had to care for him because he could not move.
When the Chinese Communist Party could not silence the indomitable Zhang Lin with multiple incarcerations and tortures, they went after his young daughter, Anni. When she was just ten years old, unidentified men whisked her away from her elementary school and detained her overnight. Once freed from detention, she was not allowed to return to school. When her father exposed this abuse of his daughter, the two of them were placed under house arrest. Ultimately, Zhang Lin was detained again, on July 18, 2013. His sentencing has been delayed twice and he remains in jail today. Because there was no one to take care of Anni, last September Women’s Rights Without Frontiers was able to obtain safe passage to the United States for Anni and her older sister Ruli. We did this with the help of Congressman Chris Smith, Jing Zhang of Women’s Rights in China, and many other brave people in the United States and China. Four people remain in detention in China today because they helped Anni.
Women’s Rights Without Frontiers now releases the Open Letter of Ruli and Anni Zhang, pleading for the release of their father, Zhang Lin. (A link to the English translation is below.)
Littlejohn continued, “As the American parents of the Anni and Ruli Zhang, it is heartbreaking to witness their anguish over the harsh sentence of their heroic father, Zhang Lin. They cannot help but compare their lives of freedom and opportunity in the United States with their father’s unjust imprisonment. It is our joy and honor to be able to help pro-democracy hero Zhang Lin by raising his daughters in our family. As he languishes in prison for his bravery, at least Zhang Lin has the comfort of knowing that his precious daughters are safe, happy and free in the United States. And I hope that he feels proud that Anni and Ruli are continuing to fight for democracy in China, from U.S. soil.
“Zhang Lin is innocent. We support his decision to appeal and join his daughters in demanding his immediate and unconditional release. We also demand the release of three other brave men who are in jail now for having helped Anni: Yao Cheng, Li Huaping and Zhou Weilin.
Read the text of the Open Letter of Ruli and Anni Zhang, translated into English:
Daughters of Zhang Lin Decry his 3.5 Year Sentence – Open Letter
Read the original Chinese text of the Open Letter: http://www.nvquan.org/2014/09/35.html