Li Wenzu | China Change

This article was first published in China Change website on September 6, 2019

In 2016, the police issued an order to all the kindergartens, including all the early education centers in Beijing’s Shijingshan District (石景山区) to not accept my son at their schools. My son, Quanquan (泉泉), had stayed home, unable to attend school since May 2018. Then, by luck and coincidence, I found a private school that accepted him. Quanquan finally was able to go to school, joining the top kindergarten class there. 

It was a hard-won opportunity for Quanquan, and he was very excited. On the first day of school [in 2018], he woke up at 6 am. He tugged at me, acting cute one moment and threatening me the next. I had to get out of bed. We washed together, and after getting dressed, he wanted to go to school. Reluctantly, I told him that the school bus wouldn’t arrive at the gate until 7:48 am. His single-eyelid eyes flashed with ardent hope, and he said to me pleading: “I want to go early to wait at the gate. Please?”

So I gave in, unable to say no to his adorable face. So, we sat on the side of the street waiting for the bus for more than an hour before it was due to arrive. Quanquan was a little anxious; he would stand up and sit down, stand up and sit down again, making me dizzy just watching him. His small pudgy face was full of worry, and he asked me over and over again: “Mom, are you sure we’re waiting in the right place for the school bus?” It was annoying and amusing at the same time; all I could do was answer “Yes!” over and over again. At that time, I thought, it was only children who’ve been unable to attend school who could feel such excitement about going to school. 

Quanquan really liked his school. The flowers and trees in the school grounds, the sandboxes, the trampoline, and the various insects on the lawn made each day full of surprise and joy. The school’s atmosphere was happy, relaxed, and full of love, which led to Quanquan arguing that he wanted to go to school on Sundays. He also made a lot of friends, and he even secretly liked a little girl.  

Quanquan successfully completed kindergarten without incident. I thought at the time that attending school would no longer pose a problem.  

Come September 2, Quanquan was promoted to primary school. School has only been in session for four days, but the police have visited multiple times already to put pressure on the school. As a result, my son is once again forced out of school.  

Having been told that that Quanquan could not continue school, I felt all my strength was sucked out of me there and then. Heavyhearted, I walked out of the school gate. At home, Quanquan’s maternal grandpa had just suffered a severe cold, stooping after days of high fever and coughing. I tried hard to pull myself together, not wanting to cry in front of him. But I broke down after all, tears streaming down my face. 

I was thinking, why? Why?

It’s no wonder that every time I visited Quanzhang (王全璋), what he worried about most was whether our son could go to school. No wonder he repeatedly sought confirmation from me whether our son was indeed going to school.

When Quanzhang was detained four years ago, our son was only two and a half years old. Now, it looks like our son has been made into a bargaining chip which officials are going to use to coerce Quanzhang. Maybe that’s why every time I see Quanzhang he tells me not to come to visit; maybe that’s why Wang Quanzhang said he did not want medical parole (as I write this, I recall that Quanzhang has lost three teeth in the past four years; maybe that’s why Wang Quanzhang said that after he is released from prison next year, he would continue to be subject to government monitoring, and would not return to Beijing, but stay in Jinan!  

They detained and isolated an innocent lawyer from the outside world for four years; they held a secret trial of him without lawyers present to defend him and then transferred him to prison to serve his sentence, and repeatedly blocked me, his wife, from visiting him. Now they are making an issue of a 6-year-old boy attending school. 

I have to ask, what do you want? 

Do you intend to make a mother give in and give up by making her suffer pain and despair over her son’s loss of schooling? Or, are you using his son to strike the imprisoned father and force him to bow to your menacing?

Or, perhaps you are concocting a tribute to your grand celebration of the 70th anniversary of the founding of the People’s Republic of China by depriving this six-year-old child of schooling and inflicting pain on this family. 

Quanquan knows that he can’t go to school anymore starting today. He asked me: “I am the leader of Team No. 1 in martial arts class. I can’t lead the team anymore, what to do? The teacher is going to teach a lot of new moves, which I won’t know — what should I do?”  He’s not ready to accept that fact that he has no school to go to anymore. He’s said repeatedly that he wants to go school, he wants to go to school.  

I wiped my tears, and began to smile, telling him:

“If we can’t attend this school, I believe that God will provide another school for us that is just as good as this one!”

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