July 13, 2006

Message of thanks & request from Nina

Filed under: News, Nina's blog — Rebecca MacKinnon @ 7:21 am

Hao is now resting at home in Beijing. While there are many unanswered questions about the cirumstances of his release, his family is asking the media and other well-wishers to keep their distance in these early days after his release. Today Nina wrote this post titled “Birthday Wish and Thanks:”

July 10th is my birthday, but I wasn’t with family. New friends took me out for a birthday lunch, and in the afternoon we sang “happy birthday” and had cake. Amid the clamor and noise I quietly made a wish about something else. Old friends and family kept calling and sending text messages to wish me happy birthday, and my husband agreed to support a Tibetan school child as my birthday present. But I still greedily regretted that my main birthday wish was not granted that day.

The next afternoon, I received a phone call from the family that Haozi had come out. My greatest wish had been fulfiled, but it was hard to completely believe. I could only pretend to be calm as I tried to take care of things.

Later, when I saw the message from little brother saying “happy belated birthday,” I cried tears of happiness. During this fairly long period of time I have learned how to persevere and hold back my tears. But now in the tumble of emotion I couldn’t prevent the tears from flowing out. Little brother has really returned into our lives! I just want to tell every family on this earth going through similar experinces: all the waiting is worth it.

I have received a lot of requests to pass on well wishes to Haozi. Once again I’d like to thank everybody on his behalf for all the support for us over the past five months. Friends, I hope that in the future there will be a chance to thank all of you in person.

Finally, I’d like to thank some news media and organizations for their profesionalism and understanding. But as for the conduct of others I have nothing to say. We still have a lot of things we have to do. If you can please give us some space and some time, we would be very grateful.

Thank you.

July 12, 2006

Welcome home Hao!

Filed under: News — Rebecca MacKinnon @ 1:37 am


(photo of Hao at Yosemite in happier times)

People around the world have been rejoicing since Hao’s sister Nina announced on her blog that Hao has been released from wherever the police were holding him. He is now at home in Beijing with his family. We hope he will rest and take care of himself… and that people will leave him in peace to recover from his ordeal.

It’s impossible to know right now what will happen next, what caused his release at this time, or whether the story is completely over. Doubtless Nina’s hard work and suffering have paid off.

There is also no doubt that all the expressions of support around the world - from media, politicians, bloggers, and other citizens writing letters and signing petitions - have had an impact. We have made it clear to the Chinese government that their treatment of Hao was a cause for national shame. We have given Hao’s family and loved ones moral support in the face of a lot of nastiness and negativity as they worked to get him released. But most importantly, the global show of support will no doubt be a great source of strength as Hao recovers from his ordeal and copes with its aftermath.

Thanks to everybody who has helped.

July 11, 2006

China: Wu Hao released

Filed under: About Hao Wu, News, Nina's blog — Feng @ 1:05 pm

Following nearly five months in prison, blogger, documentary maker and American permanent resident Wu Hao has been released, as noted in a July 11 post on his sister Nina’s blog:

刚刚得到家里电话, 被告知皓子出来了.谢谢大家的关心,但他需要清静一阵子.

Just got a call at home and informed that Wu Hao is out. Thank you everyone for your concern, but he needs some silence for now. If there is any new information it will be posted on this blog.

Set up soon after her little brother’s arrest by Chinese authorities, Nina’s blog has served as the centerpoint in the campaign to have Hao released. English translations of each of her posts recounted the hostility Nina received in repeated unsuccesful attempts to gain any information on her brother’s whereabouts. Frustrated and fearing how the news would affect her parents’ health, in late May she wrote that her brother had been denied access to a lawyer.

Support was strong across the blogsphere, with hundreds of fellow bloggers posting on Nina and Hao’s story, as well as putting up Free Hao Wu tags. Support was there from some mainstream media, with the Wall Street Journal chipping in just a week ago, and a piece written in The Washington Post by Global Voices co-founder Rebecca MacKinnon coinciding with Chinese president Hu Jintao’s visit to America:

“Hao turned 34 this week. He personifies a generation of urban Chinese who have flourished thanks to the Communist Party’s embrace of market-style capitalism and greater cultural openness. He got his MBA from the University of Michigan and worked for EarthLink before returning to China to pursue his dream of becoming a documentary filmmaker. He and his sister, Nina Wu, who works in finance and lives a comfortable middle-class life in Shanghai, have enjoyed freedoms of expression, travel, lifestyle and career choice that their parents could never have dreamed of. They are proof of how U.S. economic engagement with China has been overwhelmingly good for many Chinese.”

Several members of the U.S. Congress wrote letters of concern on Hao’s behalf. We are also grateful for some diplomacy - both quiet and open - conducted elsewhere. Late last week free speech group Reporters Without Borders announced a successful lobbying attempt aimed at the European Parliament, which ratified a resolution on freedom of expression on the internet. Included in the resolution is a list of nine imprisoned bloggers and cyberdissidents, including Hao.

July 4, 2006

Day 133: Wall Street Journal front page story

Filed under: About Hao Wu, News — Rebecca MacKinnon @ 3:17 am

The WSJ’s Geoffrey Fowler has an in-depth story titled Gray Zone: An Arrest in China Spotlights Limits to Artistic Freedom in China, detailing Hao’s detention and the context in which it happened. Here’s how it begins:

Gray Zone
An Arrest in China
Spotlights Limits
To Artistic Freedom
Hao Wu Set Out to Make Film
On Unofficial Churches,
Then Vanished From Sight
Blog Advice: ‘Be Careful, Man’
July 3, 2006; Page A1

After 12 years in the U.S., filmmaker Hao Wu returned to his homeland two years ago to document the changes shaping Chinese society. He fell in with a crowd of artists and writers and often wrote on his blog about balancing American ideals of civil liberty with the practical realities he found in China.

“Change has to happen,” he wrote in a Feb. 17 posting. “But the Chinese have to figure it out themselves.”

Five days later, Mr. Wu was arrested and he has been in detention ever since. His alleged crime remains a mystery to his friends, his family and even the lawyer his sister hired to help. These people believe he was detained over his work on a documentary film about Christian churches that aren’t recognized by the Chinese government. The lawyer, Wu Yigang, says the Beijing police told him the detention is related to “state secrets,” which limits the possibility of a defense. The Public Security Ministry didn’t respond to questions.

After describing the contradictory and often confusing cultural and political situation in China, Fowler continues:

In 2004, he moved to Beijing and worked as a filmmaker. His film “Beijing or Bust” featured American-born Chinese who moved to China’s capital and, like Mr. Wu were pursuing a future there. The film showed last September at a film festival held by the San Diego Asian Film Foundation.

Mr. Wu holds a green card but hasn’t yet received U.S. citizenship, according to his friends. “His dream is for speaking out freely, and for making films…to let people in other countries see what was really happening in China,” says his sister Nina Wu, in a March interview. Ms. Wu, a mutual-fund manager in Shanghai, quit her job recently to pursue her brother’s release full time. “He knows there are some problems here but he loves China and thinks things are getting better and better.”

Click here to read the rest.

It has been nearly a month since Nina last wrote on her blog. I’ve confirmed that she’s ok. However her health is not great and she’s under a lot of pressure. Please hit the comments section and share some supportive words with her, and please go over to her Chinese blog and let her know that you are rooting for her, and for Hao.

Also don’t forget to sign the petition and write letters to your elected representatives and local media. If you have a website or blog click here for “Free Hao Wu” badges you can put on your site.

April 28, 2006

Reporters Without Borders condemns “state abduction” of Hao

Filed under: News — Rebecca MacKinnon @ 8:36 am

The following was posted April 26th at the Reporters Without Borders website:

After two months without news, authorites accused of “kidnapping” blogger

Reporters Without Borders today said it considered Chinese blogger Hao Wu to be the victim of state abduction as more than two months have gone by since his arrest without his family getting any news about him. His lawyer has not been allowed to see him, but has been told his client is now in a state security “guesthouse”.

“This case shows the Chinese security services operate without any control by the courts,” Reporters Without Borders said. “Hao is the victim of an arbitrary system that interprets the law as it sees fit. We call on European and American diplomats to raised his case at their meetings with the Chinese authorities. We are curious know how they will justify the Public Security Bureau’s procedures.”

In a message posted on her blog (http://spaces.msn.com/wuhaofamily/blog/), Hao’s sister, Na Wu, said she had hired a lawyer who asked three questions during an interview with the Public Security Bureau on 21 April: why his client is being held longer than allowed by the law, why the authorities refuse to inform his client’s family, and why they refuse to let him see his client, which they should have done within the first 48 hours of his arrest.

The Public Security Bureau replied that these were just “misunderstandings.” Hao was no longer in detention, he was under “house arrest,” the bureau said. At the same time, the case was “classified,” which explained why no information had been given about the charges against Hao and where he was being held. Finally, neither Hao’s family or his lawyer had been allowed to see him because they had not formally requested it, the bureau added.

Na said she has never been directly notified about her brother’s arrest. The classified nature of the arrest is completely new and has never previously been mentioned by the bureau. The comments of Hao’s lawyer are also posted on her blog. He said Hao should have been placed under “house arrest” no more than 30 days after his arrest. Calling the case “classified” was just a pretext for not disclosing the charges against Hao, he added.

Na finished her latest message with the follow comments: “If you have already visited my blog and are already aware of the efforts we have undertaken since his arrest, you will understand how unconvincing the Public Security Bureau’s explanations and excuses are.” In a phone with Reporters Without Borders, she added: “The police have made it clear to me that they are aware of everything I have said and done.”

Hao has a blog called Beijing or Bust in which he writes under the pseudonym of Beijing Loafer. He is also the North-East Asia editor of the website Global Voices, to which he contributes under name of Tian Yi. He was arrested on 22 February while preparing a report on China’s underground protestant churches.

Global Voices has set up a Hao support site: http://ethanzuckerman.com/haowu

April 21, 2006

Day 59: Telling Hao’s parents

Filed under: News, Nina's blog — Rebecca MacKinnon @ 7:26 am

On April 21st Hao’s sister Nina writes, “Our Parents Know…

Back in Shanghai, I really wish I could clone myself. One minute I am discussing investment with my colleagues, the next minute I am answering calls from caring friends. In the evening, I end a meeting with my department, and then attend another one with people in the industry to discuss the industry’s direction. When I finally step through the door to my home, my eldest Aunt calls; she had met with my parents that afternoon and tried to describe my little brother’s situation in the most positive way possible. She said my mother walked her to the door and seemed calm enough. I hid my agony; the more composed they seem, the more overwhelmed they actually are. Sure enough, they called me a few minutes later, speaking with heavy nasal sounds. I know they have been hiding their grief, only showing their true emotions in front of their daughter whom they can trust. It’s odd how I am usually gripped by despair whenever someone mentions little brother, yet this time I was surprisingly calm on the phone. I gathered all those consoling words that other people tell me and fed them to my parents, and I tried to make light of little brother’s situation. In fact, as I try to convince my parents to believe what I say, I am also trying to convince myself to believe that little brother will be okay. My parents and I believe in my brother’s judgment, but they have experienced the difficult times of the past, so they can’t help but see the present situation with pessimism.

When I think of my parents’ burden, I straighten my spine, as I now have two other people’s hope on my shoulders.

Friends tell me Bloomberg News of April 19 and the Washington Post of April 20 both mention Haozi’s case. Friends have joked that Haozi has become a “celebrity”. I can only laugh bitterly; who wants to become this kind of “celebrity”?

Here is the link to the Washington Post article: Shattering the China Dream.

March 30, 2006

Day 36: Hao’s sister is blogging.

Filed under: News, Nina's blog — Rebecca MacKinnon @ 3:49 pm

Hao’s sister Nina Wu has now started a blog on MSN Spaces. It includes a photo gallery of “Haozi” as the family calls him. Even if you don’t know Chinese, leave her a comment in English and let her know your support for Hao. Thanks to a volunteer who wishes to remain anonymous, we have a full translation of her first post, below. She includes an update on her latest visit to the police. It is a chilling account of what it’s like to be the family member of a Chinese person who has been detained without charge. I have put a few key paragraphs in bold:

Ever since I found “Where is Hu Jia?” (http://spaces.msn.com/zengjinyan/) on Google, Jinyan’s blog was a rest stop for my soul. I would often read her diary and the comments following it, sharing her joys and sorrows, as I too had experienced the pain and confusion after the disappearance of a loved one. Now, Hu Jia has returned. I am wholeheartedly happy for [Jinyan] and her family, and I will continue to search for my brother. With the support of my friends, I believe that I will also wait for the day when I can smile again.

I had never thought that I, after becoming an adult, would write anything besides research reports and investment records. In high school I experienced the embarrassment of someone secretly reading my diary, and I also read and heard many stories about diaries during the Cultural Revolution. After twenty, I stopped trusting the pen to record my own thoughts and feelings. Perhaps because work is so time-consuming, I only knew about the most popular blogs on the Internet, but I had never visited one myself. After my brother disappeared, I visited his blog, Beijing or Bust (spaces.msn.com/chinafool/), for the first time. Once I started I couldn’t control myself, and read his stories one after another.

My own writing has always been weak, and composition gave me even more of a headache. But now I believe that true feelings will leap onto the keyboard, as I type out the characters of my family and friends who miss Wu Hao. These feelings do not require eloquence or adornment. They just need to be faithfully recorded. I hope it can fill in for the “I love you, brother,” that is usually so hard for me to say.

Having always been proud of my enthusiasm for my job, I had hoped to remain as dedicated to my work as before, but I still left the Shenyin & Wanguo Spring Investment Strategy Conference early to drive to the petition office of the Beijing Public Security Bureau. I hoped that after Hu Jia had returned home I could get information about my brother.

This time they did not ask me to fill out paperwork. It was the same officer as last time. He and another one promised to get in touch with the officer in charge of the case. After coming in and out many times and waiting, I never met the officer in charge. I only received a message: Wu Hao has committed a crime (When I came on March 20, they only told me that Wu Hao had been arrested.) They still refused to inform me what crime he was suspected of, and also refused to allow our lawyer to see him. Threatening to go to the Ministry of Public Security was also useless.

Can these law enforcement organs really ignore his rights and those of his relatives, and after detaining him for five weeks not offer any explanation? Anger swelled in my chest.

When I heard that the repeated promises of a deadline for my brother’s release from the previous employee in-charge were just “one of the working techniques” I nearly burst with fury.

That dignified state employees would carelessly trample on someone’s dignity, that a promise to a family member could be torn to shreds like wastepaper—what powers did the law grant them? Thinking about it, the people I dealt with never showed police credentials (despite repeated requests), and never called each other by name. I only know that the lead officer is surnamed Sun. After graduating from police academy he spent some time as a teacher, and then moved to this job for (?) [sic] 15 years. Even this limited information might be false. I was angry at myself for my political naïveté, and angry at this place that displayed the police insignia but did not actually “Serve the People.”

Finally, I got in an argument with the guard over using the restroom.

It was all about regulations. It was all about protecting secrets.

Why didn’t they dare to write it down? I needed to vent my anger, but finally I just ran out sobbing. I couldn’t make trouble for the insignificant guard and staff. In vast Beijing, finding a place where people can talk sense and speak clearly is terribly difficult.

In the evening, while eating dinner with friends, I found out that a friend had a terrifying experience this afternoon. He tried calling me and J for a long time, but the call wouldn’t go through. He worried that we had had an accident. Thankfully, he persisted in dialing the number until the call went through. Only then was his mind at ease. It was strange, because at the time I was in XXXX’s [sic] hall, where the cell phone signal was excellent, but my phone didn’t ring. I checked the call record but there were no missed calls. Why didn’t it go through? I thought about it and realized that other friends also complained that I wasn’t answering my phone.

Very fishy. Finally, like a martyr saying her final words, I gave my friends contact information for my husband and my former employer. I felt disconnected from reality, like in a novel. Would anything really happen? I had thought that a person disappearing without a trace was something that only happened in novels, but hadn’t that already happened in real life too?

I had to give my daughter a call. When she said “Mommy” over the phone, my tears began to flow again. As she, completely unaware of what was happening, excitedly reported her dancing achievements and progress in class, I was silently apologizing to her. Mom has been missing too often. Mom really wants to hold your little body, share every little thing that happens at school, and read to you. I hope that everything ends quickly, and your uncle can come back soon. Then Mom can hold your little hand again.

Thank you, Huang. I did not want what happened in my life to disrupt the lives of my friends, but you still learned that information from the World Journal Even if you can’t help, your phone call let me feel the warmth of friendship in the cold Beijing spring.

I hope that friends can use this blog to enter my life, searching for my brother in 2006.

Thanks to Geoffrey Fowler of the Wall Street Journal for his story today: China’s Detention of Filmmaker Rouses Fears over Curbs on Media. (The story is accessible without a subscription.) Key excerpt (emphasis added):

Mr. Wu’s sister, Nina Wu, said the Beijing Public Security Bureau’s petition office confirmed Mr. Wu had been detained but won’t specify any charges against him. “His dream is in China,” she said. “His dream is for speaking out freely, and for making films….He knows there are some problems here, but he loves China and thinks things are getting better and better.”

In response to questions from The Wall Street Journal about why Mr. Wu was detained, the Public Security Ministry and the State Council Information Office said they are looking into the matter.

A half-dozen friends and colleagues who have known Mr. Wu for about 20 years, both in China and the U.S., describe him as outgoing and principled and said he hasn’t had problems with drugs or the law. What might have spurred the arrest, they said, is the film Mr. Wu had been working on for several months about underground churches. They said that on Feb. 24 Mr. Wu’s editing equipment and several videotapes were removed from his apartment.

The Chinese government really shoots itself in the foot by detaining people like Hao.

March 28, 2006

Businessweek journalist recalls interview

Filed under: News — Rebecca MacKinnon @ 1:32 pm

Businessweek’s Bruce Einhorn interviewed Hao not long before his detention. Here’s what he wrote about it on the Businessweek blog:

I interviewed Wu a few weeks before the police detained him. This was when the debate was raging in the U.S. about Google, Yahoo et.al. and their role in facilitating censorship of China’s Internet. Wu was surprisingly upbeat. Yes, there were problems, but Wu said that censorship wasn’t a huge issue thanks to “work arounds” that enabled him and others to avoid the Chinese firewall. And in his blog, Wu hasn’t been shy about addressing hot-button topics. In one post, he describes a conversation with a cabdriver denouncing China’s high-flying Communist leaders as “worse than the Kuomintang,” the notoriously corrupt regime of Chiang Kai-shek that Mao’s army kicked out of the mainland to Taiwan back in 1949. In another post, Wu (who is gay) mentions how a favorite high school teacher cut him off after he came out to her. Blogging about an argument with his mother, he writes about how Chinese are expected to behave as deferentially toward their governent as they are toward their parents: “However, is the government really a surrogate of our great dear ephemeral Motherland whom we should forgive for any wrongdoing and defend from any badmouthing? Should this devotion be as unconditional as that to our own mothers?….This government is not our mother. My mother, despite her great difficulty dealing with me being whom I am, still loves me and always worries about me. I came from her and I once ran away from her smothering love. But that love is real and now I’m back, I can accept the suffocating Confucian teachings just for her. Not with this government. Not with a government that demands loyalty with no love in return.”

Will the public campaign to win Hao Wu’s release work? The timing might be right. Chinese President Hu Jintao will soon be visiting the U.S., a trip that was supposed to take place last September but was put off because of the Hurricane Katrina catastrophe. The Chinese government very much wants this visit to go well, so the leaders might decide that letting a lone blogger go free in the lead up to the summit might be an easy way to score some points.

(Emphasis added.)

Associated Press & Reuters report on Hao

Filed under: News — Rebecca MacKinnon @ 1:22 pm

Associated Press reporter Alexa Olesen: China not giving details about filmmaker.

One week after Wu Hao disappeared, officials at the Beijing Public Security Bureau told Wu Na her brother was being investigated but could not be visited by a lawyer. They also warned her not to talk to the media.

“My brother has the right to defend himself,” Wu Na said Friday. “As his relative, I have the right to know the truth. I hope they will act according to law. I want them to give me a clear answer.”


Editing equipment and several videotapes were removed from Wu Hao’s Beijing apartment on Feb. 24, according to a Wednesday statement by the CPJ. Wu Hao lived in the United States for 10 years before returning to China in 2004 to make documentaries, the group said.

“Wu Hao must be released immediately,” Ann Cooper, CPJ’s executive director, was quoted as saying. “His detention is one more example of China’s desperate attempt to restrain journalists who seek legitimately to explore and understand the dynamics of its rapidly changing society.”

Reuters reports: Chinese police detain documentary maker 

BEIJING (Reuters) - Chinese police have detained a Chinese-born film maker who is a permanent U.S. resident, a family member said on Monday, weeks before President Hu Jintao visits the United States.

Hao Wu, who returned to China in 2004 after living in the United States for 12 years, had been missing since February 22 after interviewing human rights lawyer Gao Zhisheng, while making a documentary about an underground Christian congregation, his sister, Wu Na, said.

An officer at the Beijing Public Security Bureau confirmed Wu’s detention last week, but declined to give a reason or say where he was being held, she said.

The petitions office of the police station reached by telephone declined to comment.

No formal charges have been laid, although Wu’s sister believed the detention might be related to his contact with Gao, who has been suspended from practicing law, or possibly to outspoken comments on his personal Web log.

China routinely blocks access to Internet sites on sensitive subjects and rules introduced last year target Internet news content to tighten the noose on freewheeling bloggers and rein in a growing source of information.

“I don’t think it is related to his filming of the underground Christians. I think it is related to the lawyer or being too open on his blog,” the sister told Reuters.

Wu’s apartment was raided and filming equipment, video tapes, computer, personal diary and other effects taken away, the sister said. Police interrogated Wu’s house-mate days later.

The sister said Wu had phoned her three times since his disappearance and sounded depressed during the last call.

“I’m very worried about his emotional state,” the sister said, adding that police told her to return to Shanghai. Wu did not say why he was being held.

Wu did not want a lawyer and appeared unable to speak freely, the Paris-based press watchdog Reporters Without Borders said.

“I feel very sad because I cannot get any news right now,” she said. “I don’t know what will happen to him next.”

March 25, 2006

Interviews with Hao’s Sister

Filed under: News — Rebecca MacKinnon @ 1:39 am

Reporters Without Borders spoke to Hao’s sister, Na Wu. Here’s the quote:

We have only spoken to him on the phone three times. And each time, it has been he who has called, because we still do not know where he is being held. During these conversations, he tells us that everything is OK and we must not worry. He even said that he didn’t want a lawyer. But it was obvious that he could not speak freely. I went to the police station several times. They refused to give me a paper confirming the arrest of my brother. The first time they told me that he would be coming out within a few days. The second time, it was a few weeks. And now they tell me that I will have to wait another month. We have the right to know what is happening to him. He has done nothing that could harm society and there is no reason for him to be detained.

Radio Free Asia’s Cantonese service has also interviewed her. She spoke in Mandarin Chinese and the full interview with her Mandarin answers can be downloaded here. Here is my rough translation of her answers. Please feel free to post corrections in the comments section:

A: Until now we have not received any explanation as to why my brother was detained, or when I can see my brother. The police and other government departments aren’t able to give us any direct answer.

Q: Did you talk to the State Security Bureau?

A: I went to their door but was not able to enter. Because the Beijing Public Security bureau and the Beijing City office of the State Security bureau have their signplates over the same building. So since I couldn’t go in I went to the public petitions office of the public security bureau. They had an officer in charge of the case talk to me on the phone. He said that things were moving in a positive direction and I may be able to see my brother quite soon. But when I asked how soon they weren’t willing to give me a specific time. After the phone call was finished the policeman in the petition office told me, I can definitely tell you that your brother has been detained.

Q: When was that?

A: That was on March 20th. It was just recently. Then they said the ongoing investigation involved state secrets so they couldn’t tell me. That was the kind of answer they gave me. From the perspective of our family, we believe that my brother has not done anything to harm other people and has not done anything harmful to society. In his film that he was making or in the other things he did, there was nothing that challenged the government’s power or anything like that. As family members we cannot understand why the government is holding my brother.

Q: What methods are you using to get him released?

A: We are working with a lawyer and through lawful channels to get answers. Second we are hoping to use various public channels to continue searching for my brother, and to send the message that since they have no good reason to hold my brother, they should release him as soon as possible.

I do not know Cantonese and am unable to translate the newscaster speaking before and after the interview. It may include other information which others are welcome to add in the comments section of this post.