Bao Zhuoxuan, the son of Chinese rights lawyer couple Wang Yu and Bao Longjun, has applied for political asylum in the United States after being held in an immigration detention center last year.
Bao arrived in the U.S. in March 2020 from Australia, where he had eventually been allowed to study by the ruling Chinese Communist Party (CCP), who had detained the entire family in July 2015, later using his well-being as a threat to force a televised “confession” out of Wang.
He took the decision to leave Australia after an unknown person contacted his host family and asked them for his personal details, as well as to hack into his personal computer, Bao told RFA’s Mandarin Service on Thursday.
But as his mother was given an “International Women of Courage” award from the U.S. State Department for her human rights work, Bao was out on bail awaiting a court decision on his asylum application after being held in ICE’s Adelanto detention center, a former prison northeast of Los Angeles.
His attorneys declined to comment on his asylum application, while inquiries about his initial detention by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and his subsequent detention at Adelanto went unanswered by ICE and the State Department on Thursday.
Bao said he couldn’t comment on his ongoing application, but spoke to RFA instead about how his parents, prominent rights advocates who have risked their personal safety to defend some of the most vulnerable members of Chinese society, were an inspiration.
“My parents never indoctrinated me to oppose the CCP,” Bao said. “They just told me stories about some of their cases, people whose homes had been forcibly demolished, for example, or people who had been beaten up by the authorities just for filing a petition.”
“The education the CCP instilled in me, and the reports in their media, their newspapers, was all very biased,” he said. “Some people may be very rich, but the evidence of oppression is everywhere.”
“People are suffering; people we don’t know about.”
Bao was soon to experience violence at the hands of an authoritarian state.
On July 9, 2015, both of his parents were arrested in a police raid on the family home, when Bao was just 15.
Wang and her legal activist husband Bao Longjun were detained in a massive nationwide crackdown on rights lawyers and activists in July 2015.
Bao Zhuoxuan was just 16 when his passport was confiscated in the wake of his parents’ arrest on the night of July 9, 2015 at the start of a nationwide police operation targeting the legal profession that became know as the “709 crackdown.”
He had planned to complete his high school education overseas.
The teenager later tried to escape across the border from the southwestern Chinese province of Yunnan into northern Myanmar with a couple of fellow activists posing as tourists, but was caught and the activists who tried to help him detained.
He eventually arrived in Australia to complete his studies in January 2018, before deciding to travel to the U.S.