Escaping Communist China to study at Georgetown University was the dream of pro-democracy activist Zhang Jinrui. Speaking with Radio Free Asia (RFA) on October 1st, he shared how police back in China have learned of his actions. They have told his family they need to reign him back in, or there will be consequences for what he does.
According to Zhang, “The state security police knocked on our door and took my father away for lengthy questioning: ‘Does this child of yours take part in pro-democracy activities? Do they usually love their country and the Party?’” His father was told to “teach him to love his country and the Party better.” Police would later tell his family, “It’s not OK that he’s doing this, and it won’t do any good.”
While just a college student, Zhang believes Beijing is paying him attention following his involvement with the so-called “White Paper” protest. In this protest, they showed evidence of government officials silencing the pro-democracy movement in Hong Kong as well as the coronavirus lockdowns. Simply waiving white sheets of paper as they took to the streets, these protestors made their mark known.
Forget even coming to the young protestor like an adult; Chinese officials simply went for his helpless family back in China. When they did, his sister sent him a very panicked WeChat message about their visit. She told him they wanted to know about any involvement he has with “Torch on the Potomac,” an organization to create a “safe space” for Chinese students at George Washington University. As he pointed out to her and others, the group has yet to have held any official activities.
Given the discovery of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) hosting “foreign police stations” where they would monitor and harass Chinese citizens across the globe, including here in the US. It’s not just exclusive to the US, either. Canadian Member of Parliament Michael Chong testified before the US Congress back in September. Chinese officials made plans known to use his family in Hong Kong against him to show others just how deeply they’ll hit you, and serve as an example for others.
For many students studying abroad, Chinese officials will reach out to family members left behind and try to make them understand why it’s dangerous to speak out against them. They will occasionally reach out directly to them and tell them to think of the family, too. Yet that’s exactly what the problem is; they are thinking of their family left back in China.
These young students want their families to enjoy the freedom that countries like the United States have. They are protesting in the hopes of bringing awareness to their cause. Unlike American-ran protests like those with Black Lives Matter, these Chinese kids and others aren’t destroying their neighborhoods. Stores aren’t being looted or vehicles burned.
A protest like this doesn’t warrant this kind of interaction. Georgetown faculty who spoke to RFA about the situation claimed Chinese students are feeling like they have to watch their back, with deep-seated concerns other students would reach out to the CCP or officials to talk about the other. With the CCP sending in disruptors to their group activities as well as their protests, the concern is not only well-founded but enough to concern anyone.
Back in February, George Washington University President Mark Wrighton was tricked into taking down posters across campus made by famous artist Badiucao, who is mostly known for his dissident work. Falsely offended people convinced him it was a sign the school and faculty were racist and against the Chinese student body. Once he got the real picture, he learned it wasn’t racist but rather political.
The Chinese Students and Scholars Association (CSSA) has been going after people like Zhang with the full support of the CCP and its members. They stalked and harassed him, then sent his image to China, telling people to report him as an enemy of the state. By weaponizing the latest leftist craze of social justice and anti-racism, they have shut down any voices against the Chinese government.
These kids come to the US for our education, and we owe it to them to get the real experience. It’s a shame the CCP feels the need to threaten family back home, and Biden is too weak to step up and tell them “no.”