The son of a prominent Chinese human rights lawyer has been granted asylum by a court in the United States, after surviving years of political persecution as a minor by association with his activist parents in China. Friday’s ruling by an immigration judge in Los Angeles grants 22-year-old Bao Zhuoxuan the right to work, study and remain in the US without fear of repatriation – after two years of living without a passport, identification papers, driving permit or bank account. “I’m the luckiest of them all because of my parents’ relentless negotiation for my freedom,” Bao, who has not seen his parents for four years, told the South China Morning Post the night before his hearing. “The political persecution against rights lawyers and dissidents persists to this day, even years after the 709 crackdown , and their ordeals must continue to be heard by the world.” Chinese teen 'shackled, beaten' for his mother's human rights work Bao’s mother, Wang Yu, a leading human rights lawyer in China, was among the first people arrested in a nationwide crackdown seven years ago against a progressive rights defence movement led by lawyers like her. It came to be known as the “709 crackdown”, after the date of the first arrests – July 9, 2015. The same day, Bao, then 15 and waiting at Beijing airport to board a flight to Australia, was also arrested – along with his father who was with him. Bao and his parents, as well as many others lawyers held in that massive crackdown, have reported mental and physical abuse while in police custody. “When he was just a child, the Chinese government persecuted Bao because of the work of his [parents],” Juliana Yee, one of Bao’s lawyers, said after the US ruling. “We are glad that today, finally, the court has recognised the dangers Bao faced if he were returned to China, in granting his asylum application.” As Bao and his father, Bao Longjun, also a lawyer, were taken away from Beijing airport in 2015, Wang was apprehended at home. This marked the start of a nationwide crackdown against more than 300 rights lawyers, legal assistants and rights dissidents. The boy was held in a Tianjin hotel for three days and then sent to live with his grandmother in Inner Mongolia, cut off from his school and community in Beijing and under constant surveillance. Three months later, he fled to Myanmar with the help of his parents’ friends but they were captured by Yunnan public security officers upon arrival. Taken back to China, Bao Zhuoxuan was handcuffed, shackled, isolated, beaten and intimidated by Chinese police. He was also diagnosed with depression and anxiety from being under constant police surveillance after he was released to live with his relatives in Inner Mongolia. Wang, meanwhile, was forced to go on national television to confess. She read from a prepared script, denouncing her colleagues and her human rights work as a condition for her son to be free to leave China. She was released in 2016 but the family was not free and still under police surveillance. After nearly two years of negotiation, Bao was finally allowed to leave China for Australia in 2018. He has not been back since. Now a sociology student at a Los Angeles community college, Bao first fled China to Melbourne in 2018, but he felt unsafe as he continued to be under surveillance. Two years later, he decided to go to the US, where his parents had friends. However, arriving at Los Angeles airport on a tourist visa, he was stopped by customs who threatened repatriation. He then sought asylum on the spot which led to him being placed under immigration detention for a month. He spent the next two years applying for asylum, while staying with his sponsor and his parents’ friends in the US. “I wish my son could resume a normal life as soon as possible, far away from intimidation and no longer having to pay the political price because of us,” Wang said. “I thank the international community who aided our cause, but let’s not forget there are many more political prisoners and their family members who are still living in danger every day in China. Human rights lawyers Gao Zhisheng and Tang Jitian have disappeared without a trace and many others are still not free to this day.” Unbowed, unbent, unbroken: Chinese rights lawyer Gao Zhisheng speaks out on his torture with an electric baton Wang has been separated from her son for four years now. The couple have lost their licences to practise law and their passports, preventing them from leaving the country. “I think of the day and time of when I will be reunited with my parents but it might be a very distant future. Hopefully the reunion can happen one day at a place without darkness,” Bao said.