Activist tells of 5,000km flight to safe haven

PUBLISHED : Friday, 27 July, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 27 July, 2012, 12:00am


A mainland activist had three narrow escapes after she fled a secret jail, dodging security officials for days before finally reaching a safe haven.

The latest ordeal of Li Guizhi, left nearly deaf and blind through torture, began when she was turned back at the border as she tried to attend the July 1 rally in Hong Kong, she told the South China Morning Post.

That led to her 5,000-kilometre escape from the 'black jail' - a hotel basement in Laishui county, Baoding, in Hebei province. She arrived at a safe place on Wednesday with the help of a Hong Kong-based rights group, she said.

'By that time I was very nervous. My heart is not very well. I have lost my appetite completely,' she said, weeping as she recalled her ordeal in a phone interview.

Li, 57, has been petitioning over the suspicious death of her son since 2006. She wanted to come to Hong Kong to participate in the July 1 rally and speak at a press conference about her son's death, but was denied entry at the Shenzhen border late last month.

She was then pursued by security personnel, who tracked her down and arrested her as she took a bath in a hotel in Panyu on July 1.

They subsequently sent her to a 'black jail' in her hometown. 'There were six men in black suits, bringing handcuffs to arrest me,' she said. In the 'black jail' she was given injections that were 'for her asthma', she was told, but she began to feel increasingly unwell. Officials tried to force her to sign a contract agreeing to stop petitioning about her son's case, in exchange for a job for her daughter, but she refused.

Li said the jail was only loosely supervised. A nephew visited her on Tuesday morning last week, and the two of them escaped as the guards were dozing.

They initially fled in a car, but when police called them on her cell phone, they suspected officers might use the phone to track them.

So Li switched off her phone and separated from her nephew. She hid in a cornfield for several days until she thought it was safe to contact the Hong Kong-based People's Rights Union of China.

With the group's help, she fled in a succession of different vehicles, knowing there was a 'red arrest warrant' - the highest level - out for her capture. 'I decided to have a haircut and dyed my hair,' Li said. 'I put on a hat and spent five yuan to buy a pair of glasses.'

Her good luck was then put to the test by policemen checking identity cards. Twice she spotted them in the distance and fled before they could talk to her.

'The third time, they asked for my identity card,' she said. 'It was a very close call. I really could not stand it. I almost collapsed psychologically.' Luckily, the policeman only gave the card a glance and did not realise it was not hers.

Li finally managed to board a train and fled to a safe place thousands of kilometres away, she said.

She said her son, a policeman, was killed in 2006 because he had learned that Laishui's police chief, Ren Mengtian, possessed illicit drugs. 'They cleaned up the death scene,' she said. 'Nothing was left. I never even saw my son's body. It was immediately cremated.'

Ren was arrested, but fled to Beijing after he was granted bail. Li has been petitioning since then, and has been detained more than 10 times.

'I will continue to fight for [my son] even if I have only one breath left,' she said.