By Dan Parker
A Chinese political refugee who was living in New Zealand has been found, a year and a half after he vanished on a trip back to China.
It turns out that Jia Jia was apprehended in China and sentenced to eight years hard labour for speaking out against the Communist Party.
It has been 18 long and lonely months for Kuo Jia waiting for any word about his father’s welfare.
The 60-year-old was arrested in China three years after defecting. In act of defiance, he returned to see family and just disappeared.
Now, Kuo has discovered his father is imprisoned in Changzhi City, near Beijing. He says his father is serving eight years hard labour and is not allowed visitors.
“In China everything could happen in jail because the Chinese government never talk about human rights – especially for people in jail. They have no human rights. So I really worry. I hope the New Zealand Government can give me help,” he says.
So far, help hasn’t bee forthcoming, despite letters, phone calls and pleas.
Kuo has even been protesting during official visits but the Ministry of Foreign Affairs says there is little it can do because Jia Jia travelled on his Chinese passport – despite being a New Zealand resident.
“To punish my father is persecution,” says Kuo.
Jia Jia was the former head of a science and technology group in China, but defected after criticising the Communist Party and publicly claiming its membership was declining.
“He is a hero for me,” says Kuo. “My father made a sacrifice for Chinese democracy.”
But for Kuo that is cold comfort, knowing there is a chance he may never see his father again.