Mother of prominent human rights lawyer issues open letter

Monday, October 26, 2015

Zhang Kai
China Aid 
Translated from Chinese by Brynne Lawrence and Carolyn Song. Edited in English by Ava Collins.

(Wenzhou, Zhejiang—Oct. 26, 2015) The mother of detained human rights lawyer Zhang Kai has published a open to her son, regarding his work defending churches in China’s coastal Zhejiang and other human rights cases. In the letter, she speaks of her hopes regarding her son’s mission and her fear over the lack of information about his condition and detention. A translation of the letter can be found below:

Tonight, it is hard to sleep, hard to receive letters, and hard to see people. So, I write this open letter to my son, Zhang Kai.


These recent days have had two big holidays: The Mid-Autumn Festival and National Day. In previous years, you have always thought to return home to have a reunion and be joyous with all of us together, even though you were busy. This year, you continued to throw yourself into legal cases and lost your own freedom.

Your lawyers and I don’t have even the smallest bit of information about your situation now that you’ve been taken. Where are you in Wenzhou? What are you eating? How is the place you are staying? Are you being persecuted? I cannot think on these things too often. I am truly helpless and without options! I have learned during this time that on every holiday, thoughts turn to our relatives. I have felt that previous holidays passed so quickly. Vacations have always passed in a flash, but this year is not the same. How can the days be this long? Hoping everyday only ends in lost hope. These days, I am terribly upset. There is nothing in my mind except missing you. I want to control myself and my state of mind, but your shadow constantly appears before my eyes.

I remember the year that you went to college and chose your major. I helped you study for the final legal test. You asked me what a lawyer does, and I told you simply that a lawyer is someone who judges between right and wrong and defends legally, justly and publicly. You said, “This kind of career is good. I like it.” When you graduated from college, you passed the bar examination with the second highest result in the whole city. It seemed to me that year’s bar exam was especially difficult compared to others. In the whole city, the passing rate was barely over three percent. You could have easily been hired in the province’s court system because your test score was so high. In most people’s eyes, this is the kind of secure employment that can be hoped for but never reached. For this reason, I helped you fill in your forms. Many times, I urged you to come back and interview for a position or get a job. You didn’t listen. Finally, I gave up the hope of you taking an opportunity at the local police station or court.

You always said: “There are many good careers in the world, but the one that suits me best is a lawyer. I am innately compelled to act as a lawyer.” You confidently explained: “I only need to go to court for the mentality to come [to me], and [then] my mind is filled with lines of thought regarding laws and articles—well-defined and sharply contoured.”

In fact, I know there isn’t truly an innately gifted person. You succeed because you’ve studied well and have a solid foundation. In your life, you never take breaks. That year after the bar exam, you lost over five kilograms (10 lbs.), and many times I had to drag you out to walk around. After returning, you immediately went back into intense studies.

Last year, you said in the announcement of your return to China: “I sincerely know China is currently stirring people’s emotions to welcome a historical transformation. My deeply adored homeland, like a sick and hurting mother, has called me back. In the Party’s Fourth Plenary Session, the issue of a comprehensive rule of law needs to be raised.” You excitedly explained many times, “My market is in China. My mission is in China. My destiny is linked together with China’s legal progress.”

I reminded you many times that China has more than 100 million people. You, a little lawyer, are just a small drop in an endless sea. You stayed up all night to read and worried about the country and its people. Could you truly play a useful role? Nevertheless, you said: “We might not be able to change history while powerless, but we can weep with those who weep, cry with those who grieve. Without the actions of lawyers, China would have many cases that would become corrupted by bias and favoritism.” Confronting the current domestic chaos, you fought against social injustice and hazardous challenges. Was it necessary? Must you give yourself more pressure? But you said: “If a soldier knows he needs to defeat his enemy on the battlefield, will he not go? I must do this and I cannot fear the risks. I must take it upon myself to dare to do what is right.”

I was never able to convince you. I wanted you take the economic cases to make a little money, but you did not listen. You clearly knew the dangers but preferred the difficult cases, such as “wheel-war” continuous interrogation cases, forced abortion cases, railway cases, Changshu and Beihai human rights cases and church cases. The outside world says these are the most renowned cases with the largest and most profound influence.

As your mother, I don’t hope that you become famous or obtain large profits. I just hope for your safety. Your safety is my greatest desire.

Son, you should know that whenever you were away handling legal cases, I was nervous. I didn’t want to use the computer or get on the Internet. You were the one who compelled me to track you online so that I could know where you were at all times and whether you were safe.

You’ve been hunted on the street in Beijing, imprisoned in Chongqing, intercepted in Guizhou, and caught for the second time in Wenzhou. During these tribulations, I am extremely fearful. For three days, I have not seen any news of you on the Internet. I am frightened, in dire straits, and extremely nervous about your situation. My friends and colleagues praise you as “my good son.” I should feel proud, but instead I am consumed by worry and fear.

Recently, we were pleased that the nation passed a series of new initiatives directed towards lawyers. On Sept. 15, President Xi presided over an important conference meeting, suggesting the need to promote comprehensive rule of law and take measures to completely safeguard the legal profession and adequately respect the important role of lawyers.

On Sept. 16, the Legal Daily [Editor’s note: the Legal Daily is a newspaper published by China’s Ministry of Justice] published a summary of the lawyer’s work conference held by the Supreme People’s Court and the Supreme People’s Procuratorate. It is the first time that China has held a comprehensive judicial meeting focusing on lawyers. [Secretary] Meng Jianzhu gave a 10,000-word speech at the meeting. Although you cannot taste the fruit of these advancements and cannot enjoy using many professional rights, this series’ decision indicates an advance in open reform. The society is changing for the better; the central government of the Party is paying more and more attention to lawyers.

The nation’s leaders cannot say these great words and then do nothing. They cannot implement policy changes and then act in spite of them. They cannot allow people who act according to the law to be oppressed and put in jail but the free those who violate the law. This government—under which magistrates may burn down houses while common people are forbidden to light their lamps—will swiftly come to its end!

May God be with you, and may Jesus Christ keep you safe.
Zhang Kai’s mother
October 5, 2015

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