When 38-year-old Chinese native Celia Wang arrived in Queens last October, she said she felt “a little scared and totally alone.”
She spoke almost no English, had very little money, and had no idea how she was going to make ends meet.
she clutched the hand of her six-year-old son, Wesly, anyway, and arrived at
her new home in Elmhurst to start a new life. After unsuccessfully searching
for work in the book publishing and real estate industries – two fields
she excelled at in China – she was forced to sell gloves on the streets of
Flushing and Manhattan to pay the bills . . . sometimes sitting in cardboard
boxes to keep warm.
doesn’t complain or cry about her situation, though. She said she always
stays strong because, “My husband and daughter need me to stay strong. I
have to fight for them.”
husband, reporter Yuhui Zhang, is reportedly being held in a Chinese
detention center for a series of articles he wrote on the controversial
meditative group the Falun Gong.
daughter, five-year-old In San Zhang, is staying with family members in the
former Portuguese colony of Macau until Wang can afford to bring her to
Wang is struggling to save money and gain political contacts that will allow her to reunite her family and she’s calling on the residents of Queens to help. Through an interpreter, she said, “People think they can’t help. They can.”
On Nov. 11, 2000, Wang was doing the laundry in her home in Macau when she received a telephone call from her husband’s lawyer, the man who she had called to find out where her husband was. He informed her that Zhang had been arrested and sentenced to 10 years in prison because of his stories on the Falun Gong — a group that is banned in Communist China.
lawyer told Wang her husband had been “tortured in horrible ways.” Wang
told the Tribune, “I know it must be horrible. Not a day goes by I
don’t worry about his health.”
a representative for the Chinese Consulate in New York City denied that such
tactics are used by the government, Wang said she was so scared she decided
to leave China and move to Queens, where she had friends and where there is
a strong Falun Gong and Chinese population. She was able to bring her son
Wesly, but not her five-year-old daughter, who is staying in Macau with
breaks my heart that she’s not here . . . I need to settle here first. She
has all of her paperwork to come over. I just have to save money so I can
take care of her,” Wang said.
a gifted student at P.S. 89, is a “spunky kid” who loves getting
attention, and has already learned English “very well,” according to
Crystal Liu, a Flushing resident who is helping Wang in her struggle. Liu
said, “He’s always in front of the room. He’s not shy at all. He’s a
very cute little boy.”
Wang said that Wesly will wake up in the middle of the night, screaming.
“He wakes up screaming, ‘Daddy, daddy, daddy.’ Then he’ll ask me,
‘When is daddy coming home?’ He asks if daddy is okay in prison and
whether people are beating him. When he says that I’m very sad because I
don’t have the answer either.”
Macau, Wang’s cousin took five-year-old In San Zhang to the Meixi Second
Detention Center in Zhuhai where her father is being held, and Wang said,
“I know my husband is usually very calm. But when he saw her, my cousin
said his eyes grew wide and he got excited. He hadn’t seen her for two
years . . . She was yelling, “Daddy, daddy,” and tried to hug him, but
the bars were in the way . . . He tried to hug her and he couldn’t.”
said it “hurts so much” to see her children suffering, and for their
sakes, she maintains her strength and hope. She said, “I want them to grow
up happily. I’ll do whatever I can to see to it that they do.”
first met Zhang in Macau when she was working for a book publishing company
and Zhang was ghostwriting a book. Wang was his editor, and helped him
afford rent and food.
said, “I loved his writing. I was very impressed with it, and very touched
. . . He was so poor, but I helped him out.” Zhang was on a temporary visa
in Macau, and Wang helped him get an extension. “I did what I could. He
needed it,” she said.
helped him write his own book from his home. Wang said, “The boss went up
to my husband and asked if he would be interested in dating his daughter. He
said, ‘Actually, the girl I like is Ms. Wang.’”
couple was married in 1995, and Zhang started practicing Falun Gong in 1997.
Wang said, “An accountant in his office brought in a book about Falun
Gong. He read the whole thing in one night . . . He loved philosophy and
religion and he thought it was interesting.”
Gong is a Chinese meditative practice started in 1992 by now-Queens resident
Li Hongzhi. The practice includes small, slow movements, usually done
outdoors to quiet music. The practice has been banned from China.
representative of the Chinese Consulate would not comment on the group.
is slowly building up friends and support in Queens, and is learning English
from her son Wesly, who has “picked up English very quickly,” Liu said.
She is also learning the language just from hearing it, and Liu said,
“Once she learns English, things will be much easier for her.”
also growing accustomed to the borough, and she said, “It’s easy to live
here because there are so many Chinese people and cultural shops.” She
said the multiculturalism of Queens has made her transition “much
easier,” and said, “We like it here . . . Elmhurst costs less than
Flushing, but it’s just one bus from Flushing, so it’s very
said she would love for her entire family to be united in Queens, and she
said, “I like it here a lot. I think we would be very happy here . . .
It’s free and happy and safe here. My kids will be safe here.”
expects to be settled enough in Queens to bring her daughter here by next
June, and she said, “I will be very happy that day. But I won’t be
completely happy until we’re all together.”
is not alone in her struggles to get her husband out of jail, and is working
with Falun Gong members in Queens to get political power behind her efforts.
She has already contacted Congressmen Gary Ackerman, Anthony Weiner and Joe
Crowley, and all have expressed a willingness to help. They are currently
deciding how to handle the issue, and Wang said with a smile, “Anything
they can do, I would appreciate it so much.”
said, “People think there’s nothing they can do, but in China, a letter
from someone overseas is a big deal. People pay attention. It goes up the
ranks, and we’ve already gotten 39 people released from jail just from
Write to the Chinese Consulate General in New York at 520 12th Ave., New York, NY 10036 or to the Meixi Second Detention Center, Zhuhai, Guangdong Province, People’s Republic of China, 510080.