It has been more than 40 days since Zhang Anni, 10, last went to school after she was taken away in the middle of class by four alleged police officers and prohibited from returning.
The girl’s father, Zhang Lin, and human rights lawyers are preparing to take more legal action against Hupo Elementary School in eastern Anhui province and the Hefei domestic security branch for infringing on her daughter’s rights to get an education. They lodged a case with provincial prosecutors on March 22.
Zhang said his daughter was taken from class by four unidentified men - who did not show credentials nor wear uniforms - on February 27 and detained at the Hupo police station for more than three hours until he could meet her. Both father and daughter were held together until the next afternoon, said Zhang.
Zhang Lin, 49, is a political activist who has lead student hunger strikes in Anhui in support of the 1989 Tiananmen pro-democracy movement. He has been imprisoned for a total of 13 years on four different occasions.
Zhang said on Tuesday that the men were security officials, from a police branch in the provincial capital of Hefei specialising in handling “subversive” activities that they view as a danger to social stability.
The branch refused to comment on the matter in a telephone inquiry from the South China Morning Post.
Activists and rights lawyers have shown support for Zhang Lin after he publicised his case online. Several lawyers including Beijing’s Tang Jitian and Jiang Tianyong joined him in Anhui to give their legal advice.
“I am here to provide legal recommendations to Lin and his daughter as her rights of receiving an education have been seriously violated,” Tang said, adding they would resort to taking more legal action against the securities force and the school.
“The domestic security officials were suspected of illegally detaining Zhang Anni, and the elementary school did not fulfill its obligation as a guardian when the teachers allowed strangers to take the girl away,” Tang added.
In the current lawsuit, Zhang seeks 1 million yuan (HK$1.2 million) and alleges emotional damage.
On Monday, dozens of activists held a demonstration outside the elementary school. From photos posted on social media platform Sina Weibo, activists were seen holding a banner that read: “Protect children’s rights. Support Anni to return to school in Hefei.”
According to Zhang Lin, Hupo Elementary School said it would allow Zhang Anni to continue her studies only if the domestic security body provided a written document to guarantee that its officials would not intrude into the school and conduct similar actions again. The school’s principal, surnamed Hu, said their actions had triggered panic among other students and parents.
Hu told the Post on Tuesday that he had reported the situation to the district education bureau but refused to give details about his conversations with Zhang Lin.