Day 13 in Detention: “Mom did nothing wrong, she will be fine, we should just wait for her at home.”

Day 13 in Detention: “Mom did nothing wrong, she will be fine, we should just wait for her at home.”

An account of Zhu Xiaomei's arrest and the trials her family are undergoing, based on an interview with the family. Xiaomei is one of the Six Guangzhou labor activists criminally detained in a crackdown on December 3. She remains in criminal detention at the Guangzhou No. 1 Detention Center.

Translated by “Solidarity with Chinese Workers” from 《第十三天:“妈妈没有做错事,妈妈不会有事的,我们在家等她回来就好了”》 by Their Names Are Very Important (他们的名字很重要), published Dec 9 2015.
This article is part of a series of translations following the events of the recent repression in China. For updates and solidarity actions, follow the Facebook page “Free Chinese labour activists now 馬上釋放中國勞權人士”, and sign the petition here (now in multiple languages). For more information in English, see other translations and writings being compiled on Libcom under the tag “Solidarity with Chinese Workers”. For other English language articles about Xiaomei, see here and here.

Around 7:55 am on December 3, Zhu Xiaomei’s husband, Wu, was preparing to take their 10-year-old son to school as usual. Xiaomei and their one-year-old daughter were sleeping In the bedroom,. Just as he closed the house door, approximately nine police officers showed up and ordered him, with a gruff voice, to open the door. Wu asked warily:

“Who are you? Why should I have to open my door?”

“We are police and we are going to search this house!” One officer said as he showed his badge.

“You are going to search my house? Do you even have a search warrant?” Wu asked boldly.

The police officer pulled out a blank slip and filled it out quickly before handing it over to Wu.

Taken by surprise at the situation and concerned for his son’s well being, Wu told his son to leave for school. Once Wu opened the door, several policemen attempted to rush into the bedroom. Wu stopped them at once:

”“My daughter is only one, could you please be quiet and not terrify her? Also, it is inappropriate for you male police officers to enter into a sleeping woman’s room like this.”

As a result, three policewomen entered the bedroom and ordered his wife, Xiaomei, to get dressed quickly. In the meantime, male police were searching around in the house. They left no stone unturned, searching the closets, shoebox and all the drawers.

Once Xiaomei dressed herself, one male and two female police officers immediately started interrogating her in the bedroom while she held her sleeping child in her arms. The police officers took away all her work files at the Guangdong Panyu Migrant Worker Centre, including two desktop computers and four mobile phones. Among the confiscated mobile phones, two belong to Wu, one to Xiaomei, and the fourth one was not in use -- all of which were taken by the police. The interrogation lasted for 4 hours and around noon, the police took Xiaomei away.

Wu tried to speak and asked the police to show him relevant documents.

“If you are arresting my wife, you at least have to give me a good reason!”

However, the police refused to give him anything. A police officer attempted to put a handcuff around Xiaomei’s wrists while she was still holding on to her one-year-old daughter. The policeman asked Wu to carry the child. Knowing that his daughter was still breastfeeding and had never been separated from his wife, Wu refused. He said,

“My daughter needs to breastfeed. If you want to take my wife, take my daughter with her!”

One police officer took the child from Xiaomei while another put the handcuffs around her. The child, upset either by the strangers, the situation or both, seemed ready to burst into tears. Watching his wife seized by the police for no reason, Wu tried to resist. However, he was stopped by three policemen who pushed his back down on the couch, almost breaking his fingers. At that moment, several other police officers had already forced Xiaomei into the elevator. The second that the door of the elevator was closed, the police officer holding the child put her down on the floor and left.

Wu picked up the baby and immediately ran down the stairs to the ground floor. A policeman was already standing by the door of the stairwell to prevent him from getting out. With all his might, Wu finally pushed the door open. He didn’t know how he did it using only one arm, the other holding the baby. When Wu arrived, police were just trying to drag Xiaomei into their car.

“Let me take the baby with me, she needs to eat!” Xiaomei cried as she struggled. Heeding her words, Wu handed the baby over to Xiaomei. A police officer quickly took the baby, preparing to throw her back into Wu’s arms. Wu held up his arms, indicating a refusal to catch the crying baby. It was not that he did not want his child. Seeing his daughter cry so badly was torturous. However, he had no other choice: his wife was under arrest but no one was telling him what kind of charges she faced. All he knew was that his daughter could not live without her mother since she was still breastfeeding.

In that moment, Wu’s son returned from the school and saw everything unfold before him. The 10-year-old boy had no idea what was happening and instinctively took his crying sister.

The police car soon left. Holding his sister and watching the car depart with his mom in it, the little boy could not help but cry. At that time, Wu was determined to find a lawyer for his wife. A police officer tried to prevent him from leaving by holding him back. Wu shook him off and ran to Shiqiao to find a lawyer.

The next afternoon, two police officers came to Wu’s house again. They said that if no one could take care of the child, Wu could send the child to a welfare house. Wu rejected their offer angrily. Although Wu, a working father, was not likely to be able to care for his child full time, the thought of sending his one year old daughter to a welfare home was unbearable. Poor as he may be, he would not entertain the thought.

At 10 o'clock that evening, Wu received a detention order stating that Xiaomei faced charges of "disturbing the public order." She was held at the Guangzhou City First Detention Center. The following weekend, Wu lost all appetite and energy. He didn’t even feel thirsty or hungry. Worried sick for his wife, Wu lost sleep as his children cried all night for their mother.

Since Xiaomei’s departure, their daughter had ceased eating. Even the breastmilk that Xiaomei had stored in the freezer before was not sufficient to get the child to eat. Milk powder was even less appetizing. When the child got hungry, Brother Wu could only feed her some water and smashed banana.

On Dec 6th Sunday, a police officer promised to take the baby to the detention center and let Xiaomei breastfeed her. It may have been that Xiaomei had cut her hair and changed her clothes, but the baby who had been separated from her mom for three days, behaved as if she couldn’t recognize her mother. She wouldn’t let her mother hold her, not to mention breastfeed her. In less than five minutes, the police instructed Wu to leave with the baby.

On Monday, Wu once again took their child to the detention center. Because the meeting last time was too short for the baby to recognize her mother, Wu asked to prolong the meeting so that the baby could recognize her mother and be breast-fed. This time, the baby was still unwilling to let her mother hold her. Xiaomei began singing familiar songs, hoping this would encourage the child’s recognition. Wu was very sad to see such a scene. Although Xiaomei was laughing, he knew that she was devastated. The baby did not cry this time. She stared at her mother, as if remembering something. Yet when Xiaomei reached to hold her, the baby resisted.

The police would not let Wu and Xiaomei communicate much, allowing them to discuss only mundane topics. Xiaomei asked the questions a concerned mother would, like how her son was behaving at home and if her daughter was naughty. Wu dared not tell the truth, knowing that Xiaomei would be crushed if she knew that their daughter was refusing food and crying all night for her mother. When Wu took the baby and was about to leave, he saw Xiaomei sobbing. He couldn’t help but to burst into tears himself.

According to regulations, Xiaomei was supposed to meet with her lawyer on Monday. However, when the lawyer arrived at the detention center on Monday, he was told that he had to get a permit from the Panyu Public Security Bureau. While at the Panyu Public Security Bureau, no police officer was willing to process the paperwork. After a long day, Xiaomei's lawyer still was not able to meet with her.

At noon the next day, Wu called the police officer whom he had previously communicated with. The lawyer also spoke with the police on the phone. The police officer said, "No problem. There might have been a mistake yesterday. She can meet with a lawyer this afternoon.”

That afternoon, the lawyer went to the detention center and was once again denied a meeting with Xiaomei. Wu called the police officer again. The police officer said that he had to consult with his chief. After about fifteen minutes, Wu called again. The officer said," Your wife may have some problems now, and cannot meet with a lawyer."

This incident took place on Tuesday December 8, the sixth day after Zhu Xiaomei was taken away. She still is not allowed to meet with a lawyer.

Everyday since Xiaomei’s detention, Wu has been warned by the police to avoid contact with the outside world, especially interviews. However, abiding by this failed to help Xiaomei's case. Lawyers still were unable to meet Xiaomei, and the detention center did not give a clear reason why.

Wu would never have imagined that Xiaomei would one day be detained, and denied a meeting with her own lawyers.

Wu and Xiaomei had previously worked in the same company. Xiaomei was Wu’s supervisor. Xiaomei was eager to help her coworkers and friends. Even toward strangers, she would offer her help without hesitation. Wu was attracted to this character of hers and found her kind-hearted and considerate. The two often hung out together and gradually started a relationship.

An upfront and direct person, Xiaomei was not one to hesitate pointing out mistakes to Wu and others. After that though, she was not one to hold grudges. She seldom got resentful or argued over petty things. All this made her special in Wu's eyes.

At the company where the two worked, a group of older employees in their company demanded payment of their social security funds in late 2013. Although Xiaomei was a manager who had her social security paid for by the company, she helped the workers fight for their demands. Subsequently, Xiaomei was reassigned by the company to a storage area to work alone. She even had a surveillance camera monitoring her. In the end, the older workers' actions failed to win many of them their social security payments. Nevertheless, Xiaomei was fired in January 2014. Subsequently, she started applying for compensation through the labor arbitration system and began working for the labor NGO, Dagongzu.

By the time she arrived at Dagongzu, Xiaomei was pregnant. That did not stop her from going out everyday to welcome workers and offer consultations for them with enthusiasm and passion. Her daughter was born in November 2014. Xiaomei returned to work after taking maternity leave. Caring for her children and working at the same time was very tedious. But she never complained to Wu. In Wu’s recollections, Xiaomei was all smiles when they would meet at home after long work days.

For Wu, Xiaomei was a very dedicated wife and mother. Their son treated her as a friend, telling her everything. In comparison, Wu thinks he is more strict with the kids, and they are more fearful of him. Everyday, Xiaomei would cook lunch for her son and help him study English. After her son went to school, she would then start her own busy work with her daughter accompanying her.

Xiaomei is very filial to her parents and parents-in-law. This past June, Wu’s father visited them from the countryside. Although they spoke different languages and had difficulty communicating with each other, Xiaomei made an effort to spend time with her father-in-law.

Seeing his daughter crying for her mom everyday and missing his wife himself, Wu feels helpless. Wu doesn’t know much about Xiaomei’s work, other than the fact that she was helping workers fight for their rights. From his perspective, Xiaomei’s work was not illegal; instead, it was legitimate and right. He never thought Xiaomei would be arrested because of her job.

Their son is also very mature now. Everytime Xiaomei comes up in conversation, their son comforts Wu, saying, “I know mom will be fine. You don’t need to talk to me. I understand mom will be fine.” He once asked Wu why mom was arrested. Wu told him, “Your mom didn’t do anything wrong, and she will be alright. We just need to wait for her back at home.”

What Wu worries about most is that Xiaomei will be tortured and forced to make a confession, much like what he sees in television dramas. How can she handle that kind of suffering? He knows that given Xiaomei’s personality, she would rather face torture and die than admit her activism was wrong and illegal. Wu applied for Xiaomei’s bail on December 10th, and hopes the police can let Xiaomei back home as soon as possible. Their one-year-old daughter needs her mom.

“Even if Xiaomei is sentenced and, no matter how long she stays in jail, I would definitely wait for her. Our children and I will wait until she is out. I will take care of our children until she is free,” Wu says.