CHINA: Wife, Son of Chinese Human Rights Lawyer who Died Suspiciously Escape to US

21 July 2023

Hanmei ‘Hannah’ Xu (centre) and Qingxin ‘Pure Heart’ Li (second from left) holding signs as they are surrounded by volunteers from ChinaAid upon their arrival in the US.

The wife and son of Dr Li Baiguang, the Chinese human rights lawyer who died under suspicious circumstances in 2018, have escaped to the United States, according to the Christian nonprofit groups ChinaAid and Voice of the Martyrs Korea.

Hanmei ‘Hannah’ Xu and Qingxin ‘Pure Heart’ Li arrived in the United States last month and are presently seeking asylum, according to representatives of the two groups.

Dr Li Baiguang, known for his self-described “ant strategy” of travelling around China to take up hundreds of individual cases defending the religious freedom and human rights of ordinary citizens, rose to prominence internationally after receiving an award from the Washington-based National Endowment for Democracy in 2008 and being invited for three visits with then-US President George W Bush.

Both his wife and young son were summoned to the police station for interrogation by Chinese authorities in the Summer of 2015. In October 2017, Dr Li reported to international observers that he had been abducted, beaten, and threatened with dismemberment by Chinese officials in Zhejiang province for defending farmers whose land had been seized by the government. Then on 25 February 2018, Dr Li was pronounced dead at a Chinese government military hospital in Nanjing, hours after allegedly checking in for a stomach complaint. The hospital said he had bled to death due to a liver condition. But Dr Li, who was 49 at the time of his death, was reported by friends and colleagues to have been in good health immediately prior to the announcement of his death.

“Since Dr Li’s sudden death in early 2018, his wife, Hanmei Xu, has been closely controlled and monitored without freedom of movement by agents arranged by the Communist Party of China in order to prevent her from having contact with anyone overseas,” says the Rev Dr Bob Fu, the founder and President of US-based ChinaAid and a long-time friend of the family.

Hanmei Xu released the following statement: “After much suffering in China, with the help of ChinaAid and Voice of the Martyrs Korea, we are glad to finally arrive in the USA, land of freedom. We thank all brothers, sisters, and other friends of the international community who have been praying and caring about Li Baiguang and our whole family.”

According to Voice of the Martyrs Korea co-founder and President Dr Hyun Sook Foley, ChinaAid arranged for the departure of Dr Li’s family from China and is coordinating their resettlement and asylum process in the US while Voice of the Martyrs Korea is providing the finances and assisting in trauma care.

“Our focus at this point is on providing comfort, support, and stability for the family,” says Foley, who teaches Bible-based trauma recovery strategies to Christians who have experienced persecution for their faith. “We had the privilege of teaching persecution recovery strategies to Dr Li, and now we have the privilege and heavy responsibility of putting those same strategies into practice with his wife and son.”

Dr Li was born in 1968 in a mountain village in Hunan Province in south-central China as the youngest of seven children. After graduating from Beijing University with a PhD on constitutional law, he taught at Hainan University for a year before being arrested for his growing involvement in dissident circles promoting democracy. He subsequently started a publishing business envisioning public education in democracy through the introduction to Chinese readers of books translated from the Western liberal democratic tradition. However, he reported that his life was drastically changed by reading and translating a book about the persecution and perseverance of the French Protestant Huguenots in the 17th century.

“He publicly professed his faith in Christ in 2005 and gave up his ‘grand ideas’ about government reform and constitutional change in favour of what he called an ‘ant strategy’”, says ChinaAid’s President Bob Fu.

In his papers and presentations, Dr Li wrote, “Recently I’ve had a realisation: I’m willing to become an ant. I want to take the rights and freedoms in the books and, through case after case, bring them into the real world bit by bit. This is my personal stance. The path to this is legal procedure. In Summer, the ant gathers food. Today, I’m also transporting food under the framework of rights defence, and in doing so accumulating experience and results for the arrival of the day.”

He patiently and methodically followed each and every step of the legal procedure according to the letter of the law, according to Fu.

In a speech at the Library of Congress in Washington, DC in 2017, Dr Li anticipated a major crackdown on human rights and religious freedom was looming. “From this point forward, human rights in China will enter its darkest period,” he said. Fu reported that Dr Li remained optimistic due to his Christian faith. “He quoted Romans 13,” says Fu, “declaring ‘The night is nearly over; the day is almost here’.”

Though he died a few months later under suspicious circumstances, Voice of the Martyrs Korea’s Dr Hyun Sook Foley says the safe arrival of Dr Li’s wife and son in the US is a divine sign that his optimism will be vindicated. “Psalm 146:9 says, ‘The Lord watches over the sojourners; he upholds the widow and the fatherless, but the way of the wicked he brings to ruin’,” says Representative Foley. “The Lord has upheld Hannah and Pure Heart since February 2018. In the end, the little ant’s patient, persistent fight against wickedness will be upheld by the Lord as well.”

Dr Li Baiguang (right), Chinese human rights lawyer known for his “little ant” strategy of travelling across China to defend the human rights and religious freedoms of ordinary citizens, died under suspicious circumstances at a military hospital in eastern Jiangsu province, China, on 26 February 2018.

Dr Li Baiguang (second from left) during one of three invitations to visit then-US President George W Bush.


This story is courtesy of our sister mission: Voice of the Martyrs Korea.

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