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Wang Zang and Wang Li: Marry a Poet and Go to Jail

The poet was sentenced for protesting against the repression of Tibetans, Uyghurs, Hong Kong democrats, and Falun Gong practitioners. His wife just for being his wife

by Wang Zhipeng

December 21, 2022

The Wang family in better times, and a early picture of Wang Zang. From Weibo.

Marrying a dissident poet is not a good idea in China. You may be harassed until you suffer a severe depression, and in the end go to jail.

This is the story of Wang Li (王丽), sometimes signing her name as Wang Liqin (王莉芹), the wife of well-known poet Wang Zang (王藏). She is now appealing the verdict rendered on November 11 by the Intermediate Court of Chuxiong Yi Autonomous Prefecture in Chuxiong City, Yunnan province, which sentenced her to two and a half years in jail. Her husband Wang Zang was sentenced to four years.

Wang Yuwen (王玉文), a 37-year-old native of Chuxiong City, adopted the pseudonym Wang Zang in 2003, when he started publishing poetry at age 18, as an allusion to “The Little Prince” (Xiao Wangzi, 小王子), a book that is also popular in China. In 2005, he became a member of the Independent Chinese PEN Center, and at age 20 was already placed in residential surveillance. He was arrested twice in 2006 and 2007, and placed again in residential surveillance, for his criticism of the regime in his poems.

In the following years, he expressed a growing solidarity for the persecuted minorities: Tibetan Buddhists, Uyghurs, Falun Gong practitioners. When in 2014 he manifested support for the pro-democracy movement in Hong Kong, the CCP decided that harsher measures were needed. On October 1, 2014, a dozen police officers stormed the house where he was residing in Beijing and detained him. He was formally arrested on November 6, 2014, and released in July 2015 without a trial. He reported he had been systematically beaten and tortured.

He continued to devote poems to persecuted minorities, including the Tibetans who self-immolated themselves, the Uyghurs, and the “Tiananmen Mothers” who lost their daughters and sons in the Tiananmen Square massacres of 1989 and demanded justice.

Yi Ren Gu Zhen Square in Chuxiong City, Yunnan. Credits.

On May 30, 2020, there was another raid at his home in Chuxiong City and more than 20 police officers confiscated the papers and computers there, and took away Wang Zang and his wife Wang Li. The wife was released the next day, while the poet remained in jail.

However, when she started posting on social media advocating for her husband’s release, Wang Li was also detained in June 2020. Wang Zang was formally arrested on July 3 and Wang Li on July 24.

After Wang Zang was arrested in 2014, Wang Li was put under pressure by the police to testify against him, with threats to kill her and her children, As a result, she developed a severe depression and, after the whole family was compelled to leave Beijing and go back to Yunnan by the authorities in 2017, even tried to commit suicide.

She has now been sentenced for “inciting subversion of state power,” but the only crime she committed was publicizing the detention of her husband and calling for his release.

Independent artists and poets are considered by the CCP as dangerous as independent religion. When independent artists support persecuted religion, arrest, torture and jail sentences follow.

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