A child's nightmare in China

Posted: Mar 30, 2001 12:00 AM
A little boy was kidnapped in a foreign land, ripped from his family's arms, and psychologically victimized by police-state thugs. No, I'm not revisiting the case of young Elian Gonzalez. I'm talking about Andrew Xue, a 5-year-old American boy from McLean, Va., who was held captive against his will for nearly a month in China while government officials interrogated his father and imprisoned his mother. Andrew's dad, Xue Dong Hua, is a computer analyst for Electronic Data Systems. Andrew's mom, Gao Zhan, is an academic fellow at Washington, D.C.-based American University. They are permanent residents of the United States, awaiting their swearing-in as American citizens. The family had been on vacation in China last month and was preparing to return to the U.S., when a group of 15 Beijing secret police in plain clothes swarmed Andrew and his parents at the airport. "It was very, very scary," Mr. Xue recounted for me this week. "We were approaching the check-in counter, just waiting in line, when they took all three of us by surprise." Andrew and his parents were hustled into separate cars. The boy was taken to a state-run "kindergarten," where his "caretakers" refused to let him speak to his parents or grandparents for 26 days. His dad was blindfolded and driven two hours to an unknown location, where government officials grilled him about his wife's research -- which deals with women's issues and, Mr. Xue says, "is purely academic, not political." Mr. Xue adamantly maintains that his wife is innocent of any accusations and is incensed that the Chinese used his son "as a hostage to push me to say something against my wife." He and Andrew were released on March 8. Andrew's mom, however, remains in custody in China on trumped-up charges of "damaging state security" and has not been seen or heard from since Feb. 11. "I'm very concerned about my wife's life," Mr. Xue told me. President Bush raised strong concerns about the case in a meeting with China's vice premier, Qian Qichen, last week. Secretary of State Colin Powell has also weighed in, calling Andrew's treatment "outrageous" and in violation of a bilateral consular agreement to notify the U.S. government within four days of detaining any American in any manner. The U.S. Embassy continues to press for the release of Andrew's mom, as are her colleagues at American University, members of the family's church, and the N.Y.-based humanitarian group, Human Rights in China. The Chinese government denies that Andrew was "detained." So say the barbaric masters of Orwellian propaganda. Andrew cried himself to sleep amidst cold strangers in an alien place for 26 days, not knowing what happened to his parents or whether he would ever see them again. When he was finally reunited with his father, "he didn't even recognize me at first," Mr. Xue told me. "He stared at me for a minute, then rushed to me. We held each other and cried. All the people around us kept silent." Andrew's first words: "Daddy, I want to go home." Andrew used to be an outgoing kid, friendly and independent. Now, Mr. Xue says, "he sleeps in my bed with me and doesn't want to leave my side." He asks for his mother every day. "It breaks my heart," Mr. Xue says. "I can only tell him that mommy will be home soon." Every parent in America who was moved by the Elian Gonzalez case should be even more outraged by what communist Chinese secret police did to Andrew Xue -- an American boy -- and his parents. Andrew's face should be on the cover of Time magazine. His name should be a household phrase. His case should be the subject of nightly news special reports. And our politicians should be forced to answer a fundamental question underlying this case: Why do we maintain most-favored trading status for a totalitarian regime that cracks down on free speech, tortures religious and political dissidents, tramples parental rights, abuses children with impunity, and makes a mockery of the rule of law?