Chinese Police Terrorize Family of Pro-Democracy Student Studying in America

china police
Kevin Frayer/Getty Images

Zhang Jinrui, a law student at Georgetown University in Washington, DC, and an outspoken pro-democracy activist, told Radio Free Asia (RFA) on Sunday that his family in China has been harassed by state security police and ordered to “get him in line,” or else.

“The state security police knocked on our door and took my father away for lengthy questioning: ‘Does this child of yours take part in pro-democracy activities? Do they usually love their country and the Party?’” Zhang told RFA.

Zhang said his father was instructed to “teach him to love his country and the Party better.”

“It’s not OK that he’s doing this, and it won’t do any good,” the police told his family back in China.

Zhang felt he popped onto Beijing’s radar after he joined the “White Paper” protest movement, which demonstrated against authoritarian abuses such as the crackdown on Hong Kong’s pro-democracy movement and China’s hellish coronavirus lockdowns by waving blank white pieces of paper. He also criticized China’s hosting of the Winter Olympics.

Zhang said he was never contacted by Chinese officials himself. Instead, they immediately went after his family, prompting a panicked WeChat message from his sister. She told him the police questioned her about his alleged participation in Torch on the Potomac, a “safe space” created for dissident Chinese students at George Washington University. Zhang pointed out that Torch on the Potomac has not scheduled any activities yet.

Zhang appears to be one of many Chinese living abroad who have been targeted by Beijing’s “long-arm policing” strategy, which involves using networks of informers to monitor Chinese dissidents living abroad – and networks of operatives to harass them. 

Last year, human rights groups exposed over a hundred illegal Chinese “police stations” established in countries around the world, including the United States, whose mission was to surveil and harass Chinese nationals living in other countries.

WATCH: China Operates Police Stations in the US, FBI Chief Admits


Terrorizing family members in China is a common tactic, as Canadian MP Michael Chong testified to the United States Congress in September. Chong said Chinese officials planned to use his family in Hong Kong to “make an example” of him after he sponsored a resolution against the Uyghur genocide.

Michael Chong, member of parliament (MP) (Ben Nelms/Bloomberg via Getty)

Many other Chinese students studying abroad have reported their families back home being hauled in for interrogation. The parents are often shown posts critical of the Chinese government from the student’s social media feeds and told to rein their children in. Sometimes Chinese operatives contact the students abroad and tell them to think about the family members they left behind.

A member of the Georgetown faculty told RFA the problem is getting worse, as Chinese students fear their Chinese classmates might report what they say to Communist Party officials. The Chinese Communist Party sometimes flexes its muscles by sending groups of students to disrupt university activities the Party finds threatening.

According to Zhang, Chinese officials contacted school officials to portray dissident students as “racist,” apparently thinking they only needed to touch the rhetorical hot buttons of woke campus life to turn university administrators against pro-democracy students – and they were right because the school stopped supporting pro-democracy activists.

George Washington University President Mark Wrighton admitted in February that his administration was tricked into removing posters designed by famed dissident artist Badiucao, based on “concerns” funneled into university channels that “cited bias and racism against the Chinese community.”

“Upon full understanding, I do not view these posters as racist; they are political statements,” Wrighton said in his mea culpa.

Zhang described a harrowing incident where students from the regime-linked Chinese Students and Scholars Association (CSSA) verbally harassed him as a traitor, then beamed images of his face back to China and told their audience to “report me to the police as someone who opposes the government as soon as possible.”

“CSSAs have become experts at weaponizing the language of social justice and anti-racism to attack critics of the Chinese government,” George Washington University Law School professor Donald Clarke told RFA.

This should come as no surprise, since campuses long ago became hothouses of political correctness, censorship, and mob tactics, and those are all games mastered by the Chinese Communist Party a long time ago. 

The Communist regime and its student groups are learning exactly where the lines are drawn against criminal harassment in the United States. In December, a Chinese student named Wu Xiaolei was arrested by the FBI for allegedly stalking and harassing a pro-democracy fellow student at the Berklee College of Music.

The dissident student reportedly triggered Wu by posting fliers that repeated the slogans hung from a bridge in Beijing by courageous dissident Peng “Bridge Man” Lifa during the massive nationwide protests against dictator Xi Jinping’s coronavirus lockdowns. 

Xi’s regime made Peng disappear. Wu followed suit by threatening to cut his fellow student’s “bastard hands” off, and telling the victim he had alerted state security in China, so the victim’s family should expect a visit from the police — just as Zhang Jinrui’s family in China was terrorized a few months later.


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