A Love Story Separated by High Walls

On the evening of 20 March 2019, Wei Zhili (Xiaowei), an editor of the "iLabour", an online media concerned about the rights and interests of Hunan's silicosis workers, was arrested by Shenzhen Police when he was on his way to his parents' residence in Guangzhou. The police also broke into his parents' home and searched for evidence. Xiaowei’s wife, the mainland feminist Zheng Churan (Datu), had written a post on Facebook on March 25 and expressed her concerns over her husband’s whereabouts, and asked the public to put pressure on the police station that detained Xiaowei. The post attracted significant public attention on this little love story behind bars.

Xiaowei’s family is poor, his father worked in different industries, and his mother has worked in a dock as a clerk for 30 years. Although his family did not earn a lot, his parents still bought him books and allowed him to study different knowledge from books. On the other hand, Datu’s family was not rich, but was relatively wealthier when compared to Xiaowei’s, meaning that their family backgrounds are quite different from each other’s.

 

Since Xiaowei grew up at the pier and witnessed the poor working conditions of the dockworkers and how little they were paid for their hard work, he understands how workers are suffering from the unjust structure of the society. For Datu, Xiaowei enlightened her on workers’ sufferings. He would tell her the sufferings of workers in different industries, and help her to understand that the workers' misfortunes are not results of their laziness, but rather a product of social injustice that widens the disparity between rich and poor.

When he was 20 years old, he learnt of the adversities encountered by silicosis contracted workers. When he knew that workers who suffered from silicosis could only helplessly wait for death every day, he began to participate in other university scholars' research on silicosis workers. After graduation, he worked in a workers centre to help other workers. Xiaowei and Datu, a couple of hero and heroine in the eyes of outsiders, supported each other on the road to pursue justice and help women and workers in their respective fights against injustice. Even after the workers centre that Xiaowei worked at was forced to close, Xiaowei insisted to fight for justice. As a journalism graduate from university, he became an editor for the online media "iLabour", and continued to concern the rights and interests of Hunan's silicosis workers.

 

After the arrest of another "iLabour" editor, Yang Zhengjun (Baozi), in January 2019, Datu began to worry about the safety of Xiaowei and even considered persuading him to stop following up on the cases of silicosis workers. However, when witnessing the Hunan's silicosis workers went a far distance to Shenzhen to defend their rights, and the news that those workers and their families were being suppressed, she could no longer ask her husband to stop. In fact, Xiaowei himself was also afraid at that time, but he and Datu could only encourage each other and keep working.

 

After the arrest of Xiaowei and another editor Ke Chengbing on the evening of March 20, Datu had been looking for their whereabouts with their lawyers. A few days later, the lawyers found them being detained at the Shenzhen Detention Center.

Xiaowei, Baozi and Ke Chengbing, the three young men who sincerely served the workers and fought for justice, have now lost their freedom due to repressions from the Chinese Government. While the loyal pair of lovers, Datu and Xiaowei, are also forced to separate from each other. Like other ordinary lovers, this fearless couple are also full of compassions for each other and reluctant to be separated, which makes their pursuit for justice full of humanity and moving.