After years of imprisonment and struggles to find a place of refuge, Chinese dissident Huang Yan arrived in Los Angeles from Taiwan on January 25 after the United States granted her political asylum.
"I would like to extend my heartfelt thanks and gratitude to everyone who helped me in Taiwan," Huang said in Los Angeles, as reported by Radio Free Asia.
"I am free now, but nearly [all Chinese refugees] in the U.S. are separated from their families," she said. "We didn't come here for the pursuit of happiness ... I actually would like to go back to China."
Originally from Foshan, Guangdong Province, Huang Yan is an activist who gained visibility advocating for the release of arrested human rights lawyers. Her work made Huang a target for Chinese Communist Party (CCP) officials.
In an interview with World Magazine, Huang revealed that she suffered two miscarriages as a result of beatings carried out by CCP agents. Most recently, she was detained in November 2015, for allegedly “deliberately disseminating terrorist information.” In December 2015, Huang was formally charged with “obstructing official duties.”
According to human rights groups, she experienced serious abuse while in prison. In May 2016, Chinese Human Rights Defenders sent an appeal to the United Nations on behalf of Huang, accusing Chinese authorities of depriving her of adequate medical treatment for her diabetes and ovarian cancer.
The document claims that officers at Shunde District Detention Center, where she was imprisoned, confiscated her medication and prevented her from receiving surgery and chemotherapy for her cancer.
Moreover, Chinese Human Rights Defenders charge that prison guards “refused to let [Huang] bathe and shackled and hit her” as a punishment for her shouting political slogans.
Prison conditions reportedly caused Huang’s health to deteriorate. An April 2016 medical examination showed that “her late-stage cancer had spread to other parts of her body, and that she had dangerously high blood sugar and blood pressure.”
Even following her September 2016 release from prison, Chinese authorities blocked Huang from acquiring medical treatment for her cancer. Although Sun Yat-sen University hospital in Guanghzhou initially agreed to perform surgery and chemotherapy on Huang, it rescinded this offer after pressure from the provincial government.
"China is a huge country with a population of 1.4 billion, but oppression and persecution have gotten even more serious in recent years under the absolute power wielded by [President] Xi Jinping," Huang said, as reported by RFA.
"Back in China, I basically was followed every minute of the day and [often] kidnapped [by police]," she said.
Huang left China in January 2017. She first traveled to Hong Kong, from where she departed for Thailand. However, Huang did not find a long-term home in the country. Due to Thai visa restrictions, she was forced to make frequent trips to Indonesia.
Towards the end of May 2018, Huang arrived in Taiwan. Initially, Taiwanese authorities detained her at Taoyuan International Airport in Taipei and contemplated deporting her to China. Rights groups soon rallied to Huang’s aid. China Aid, a U.S. based “non-profit Christian human rights organization committed to promoting religious freedom and the rule of law in China,” wrote to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and urged it to intervene on her behalf.
At the same time, the Taiwan Association for China Human Rights contacted officials in several Taiwanese government agencies about Huang’s case. These efforts resulted in Taiwanese authorities eventually granting Huang permission to remain in the country for three months.
Human rights is an area of frequent contention between Washington and Beijing. The most recent State Department report on human rights in China criticized prison conditions in the People’s Republic, calling them “generally harsh and often degrading.”
China retaliated by issuing its own human rights report, which offered a critical assessment of how the United States treated minorities, lower income individuals, and detainees in Guantanamo Bay.