American's bid to visit poet in Chinese prison becomes tense
By The Washington Post
Published: Saturday, Oct. 12, 2013, 6:54 p.m.
BEIJING — Moved by the plight and failing health of a Chinese dissident imprisoned for a few lines of poetry, a retired American doctor traveled from her quiet life in suburban Washington to the gates of an eastern China prison on Saturday and asked that she be allowed to give him a medical evaluation.
Authorities at Prison No. 4 in Zhejiang Province refused Devra Marcus' request to see imprisoned activist Zhu Yufu. They temporarily confiscated the cellphone of an accompanying interpreter and deleted images from it before brusquely escorting them out of the prison, said Marcus and others who were at the prison with her.
Marcus — a 73-year-old, white-haired and bespectacled grandmother with 40-plus years as a Washington-area doctor — described the experience as surreal and at times frightening, from her surreptitious planning with a China-focused human rights group, to paranoid measures to get through immigration, to the tense 21⁄2-hour standoff at the prison.
Explaining her decision to confront Chinese authorities known for cracking down on those who challenge them, she said, “I figured what are they possibly going to do to an old Jewish white lady from McLean?”
While human rights groups have tried various ways of assisting jailed dissidents over the years, a surprise visit by an American woman to a dissident's prison was a somewhat risky approach for her and for the 60-year-old Zhu, said some human rights experts.
Zhu, the man she tried to visit, was sentenced to seven years after he wrote a poem in 2011 amid uprisings in the Middle East. He was charged with trying to subvert state power — the same charges under which Nobel Peace Prize winner Liu Xiaobo and several other dissidents are being held.
The short poem — titled “It's Time” and 12 lines long — calls for people “to voice the song in your heart” and concluded, “China belongs to everyone.”
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Benghazi dangers frighten diplomats
- American held in North Korea offers apology
- Anti-government mass rally in Ukraine turns violent
- Robert Gumbita retains Mt. Pleasant School Board president seat
- Egyptian military granted powers in draft constitution
- Nigerian airport, air force bases hit
- Bolshoi dancer sentenced to prison
- Detained vet worked with group of guerillas
- French report: No proof Arafat was poisoned
- Airspace row simmers as Biden visits China
- Judge says Irish police colluded in killings by IRA