We speak with Ti-Anna daughter of Wang Bingzhang founder of the Overseas Chinese Democracy movement who has been imprisoned in the country for the last 14 years. The film, Inside These Walls covers the struggle from freedom and democracy.
For those of us who are new to Wang Bingzhang’s story, can you briefly tell us about his struggle and his current condition?
Ti-Anna: My father is a Chinese democracy activist who has spent the last 14 years in a Chinese prison. He had dedicated his life to trying to bring about the democratic transformation of his homeland, and was eventually stopped by the Chinese government. In 2002, my father was kidnapped from Vietnam, forced into China and arrested by Chinese police. He was tried in a sham trial, and sentenced to life in prison for his political work that threatened the Chinese communist regime. Today, my father remains in solitary confinement, where both his physical and mental health is ailing
How has your relationship with your father changed over the course of his imprisonment? In what ways has he (either directly or through his absence) influenced you?
Before my father’s imprisonment, I barely knew him. After he was imprisoned, we started getting to become closer through letters and visits. Even now, I can’t say how much we really know each other. Our contact is very limited so he still feels very distant. But we are connected in an inexplicable way. He is always on my mind.
When did you make the decision to become more of a direct political activist, and what made you decide that this was the best way to confront/resist your father’s imprisonment?
When I was 18, I realized that my father’s case was not getting the media and political attention it deserved. After observing similar campaigns for other political prisoners (in China and elsewhere), I knew that the best advocates for these people are family members. That’s when I made the decision to play a bigger role in his campaign.
Has your work as an activist changed your relationship with your father in any way? How has his own past of political activism influenced your work?
My father is the reason I am who I am today. All the experiences I have gained and the challenges I have faced while advocating for him have played such a big part in my personal development. The work that I have done on his behalf has made me a stronger writer, a more effective speaker, and really, I think, a better person.
Are there any larger issues you are hoping to draw attention to while advocating on behalf of your father?
It’s important that people know that my father is but one of the countless individuals affected by the Chinese communist rule. There are thousands of political prisoners just like him, as well as ethnic and religious minorities that are brutally persecuted. These include Falun Gong practitioners, Christian organizers, and whole communities of Uyghers and Tibetans, just to name a few. People are dying and suffering in China, and Canadians need to know of they are fighting for freedom.
Other than the actions of the Chinese government, what have been some of the most frustrating elements of your activism and political advocacy?
The overwhelming sense of helplessness. At the end of the day, no matter how hard my family tries, my father’s fate is ultimately out of our control. That is both frustrating and difficult to accept.
Conversely, what have been some of the most positive experiences you have had since you started to advocate for your father more publicly?
The most positive experience I have had is befriending other children of Chinese political prisoners, and forming a community with one another. It’s so comforting knowing that we are not alone in what can seem like an extremely isolating experience.
Finally, is there a way for Canadians (who might be watching the incredibly affecting story of your family) to help in advancing the causes of political prisoners like your father?
We are asking Canadians to write to the Foreign Minister Stephane Dion so he knows that Canadians care about Wang Bingzhang. We already have a template drafted on our website at www.wangbingzhang.org. Just download it, add your name, and mail it out (no stamp needed). This type of advocacy seems simple, but is extremely effective in making your voice heard.