May 18, 2017
Before her husband disappeared into detention, Chen Guiqiu did not ask him much about his risky work as a Chinese human rights lawyer. Before word crept out that he had been tortured, Ms. Chen trusted the police. Before she was told she could not leave China, she never expected she would make a perilous escape abroad.
Ms. Chen and her two daughters reached the United States in March after an overland journey to Thailand that almost ended in their deportation back to China. Her husband, Xie Yang, was tried and convicted this month of subversion and disrupting a court. But Ms. Chen said her escape was the culmination of a personal transformation that began after he was detained almost two years ago.
“It was because of all the pressure from all sides — from state security police, my employer — and slowly I lost commitment and hope,” Ms. Chen said in a telephone interview from her temporary home in Texas. “I was always being followed. I felt I was living without freedom.”
Ms. Chen’s evolution was part of a startling outcome of China’s crackdown on outspoken rights lawyers and advocates that began in July 2015 — the spouses who resisted. She and other wives of rights advocates held in China described their experiences to a congressional subcommittee in Washington on Thursday.