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Police in China tormented a little girl to try to silence her dissident father, who had exposed government corruption, according to reports from officials with an activist organization that monitors the regime’s behavior.
On Feb. 27, Zhang Anni, 10, was ordered to her school principal’s office, whisked away by four unidentified men and detained without food or water for 20 hours.
She gave details of her ordeal to Reggie Littlejohn, founder and president of Women’s Rights Without Frontiers, which opposes forced abortion, gendercide and sexual slavery in China. Littlejohn recently was profiled by WND.
Littlejohn and Anni also spoke recently during a national radio program broadcast over the Internet by a group that manages to evade pervasive Chinese government censorship.
Afterwards, WND spoke with Littlejohn, who says the case has sparked national outrage in China.
Anni’s father, Zhang Lin, participated in the 1989 democracy protests in Anhui Province. Littlejohn says he is a prolific dissident writer who, according to the group Human Rights in China, has been jailed several times and is subjected to continuous monitoring.
Both father and daughter, Littlejohn said, “were in extreme anguish.”
“They were actually in the same building together but didn’t know it, and they had no idea where the other one was or how long this was going to last or what was going to happen to them,” he said.
“This is really traumatic for a 10-year-old girl. No legitimate government would do that to a 10-year-old girl. She didn’t even do anything wrong. This is entirely because of her father’s political activities as a dissident.”
Littlejohn calls Anni an “extraordinary girl” and says she was fearless and articulate in their radio conversation heard across China.
“I was so touched by being able to speak with her. Here I am in San Jose, California, and she’s in Anhui Province in China, and I’m able to encourage her, as an emerging woman’s rights activist in China. It was almost like mentoring her. I told her to stay strong, stay true and stay humble and you can play a major role in leading your people to freedom.”
Her father said: “Anni is strong. She’s been dealing with the police since she was two years old. She knows how to handle them.”
However, Anni has still not been allowed to return to school.
Littlejohn said the Chinese Communist Party persecutes, detains and tortures the families of dissidents in an attempt to silence them. She calls it state-sponsored child abuse and says such persecution is routine in China.
Blind activist Chen Guangcheng’s son had to move away from his parents to go to school. His daughter was only allowed to go to school after intense domestic and international pressure was applied. Now, the Chinese Communist Party has detained and tortured Chen’s nephew, Chen Kegui.
When WND asked Littlejohn if China’s persecution of the relatives of dissidents is working, she said, “Yes, it has a very chilling effect.
“First of all, there aren’t that many people who are brave enough to risk losing their jobs and risk their own safety, possibly their lives, for a cause. And the number who are willing to subject their families to that is even smaller. It’s really the only way the Chinese Communist Party can maintain control.
“Not only do they persecute dissidents, which silences most people, they also persecute the families of the dissidents, which silences almost everyone. And it’s only the extremely brave, and rare exceptions, who are willing to stand up against that,” Littlejohn said.
“But, the people of China are becoming bolder and more disgusted with the Chinese Communist Party, which is why, according to Zhang Lin, 500 people are protesting this. These people are busy, just like we are, but they dropped everything and went to a city in Anhui province and are demonstrating in front of the school. And they’re risking the safety of their families, as well.”
Littlejohn also led the international effort to free Chen, who arrived in the U.S. on May 19, 2012.
She said that because "he exposed the fact there were 130,000 forced abortions and forced sterilizations" in just one province in 2005, "he was jailed, tortured and denied medical treatment and put under severe house arrest, where he continued to be beaten and starved for more than five years."
Littlejohn told WND: "I know when protesters came to help Guangcheng there was a complete blockade of his village. There were security police at every entrance to the village, yet people came, knowing they were not going to get through, knowing they were going to be beaten, knowing they were going to be detained. Many of them had their wallets and their money stolen. They came anyway, just to make a statement.
"People in China are suffering so much, people are willing to put themselves at risk, and a rare few are willing to put their families at risk to make a statement about the brutality and the injustice of this totalitarian regime. And so, when people make these kind of statements, when the news comes to the West, we really have a responsibility to publish it because people are sacrificing incredibly to get this to the West," she added.
Littlejohn said that kind of publicity is the key to obtaining democratic reform in China. She illustrated her point with the method Women's Rights Without Frontiers used to lead the international coalition to free Chen.
He had made what Littlejohn called "a dramatic, some would say miraculous escape, and ended up at the U.S. Embassy."
"Then there was a diplomatic standoff between the U.S. and China about what was going to happen to him," she said.
Prior to that, she said, they went to the White House, the U.S. Congress, the State Department, the European Parliament, the British Parliament and the Vatican to raise his visibility.
"So, all of a sudden, everyone in the world knew who he was, and there was this united voice for China to release him and for the U.S. to accept him; and ... without that international pressure, it is unlikely that he would be living in New York today."
Littlejohn said it is particularly important to put international pressure on the Chinese government to stop its one-child policy, because she believes the Communist Party is using it to stay in power.
She suspects the one-child policy began in the 1970s as an effort to control population, but when the government saw how the unexpected byproduct of terror was so effective, it used it as a tool to retain power.
Littlejohn said the government has developed an “infrastructure of coercion” that can also be used to suppress dissent.
"The one-child policy in China touches a nerve that no other policy touches," she said. "It is the central policy of the government," and that's why it's so important to bring its horrors to the people of the West and to apply international pressure against it.
Littlejohn said Chinese dissidents need the support of Westerners to stand up to their communist government.
"People inside of China can't do that without risking not only their safety, but the safety of their families. And that's what this case is about. Going after a 10 year-old girl shows the Chinese government will stop at nothing to try to silence people, including persecuting their children."
Women's Rights Without Frontiers is collecting signatures for a petition against forced abortion in China. The group plans to deliver the petition to the Chinese Embassy in Washington, D.C., on the morning of April 24.
The group has also produced a four-minute video on forced abortion in China.