Li was kidnapped from her home in the southern city of Guangzhou on 18 September after sending a distress SMS to her husband as he was about to conduct his sixth and final interview with Guo Wengui, a Chinese billionaire who fled to the United States and has repeatedly threatened to reveal information about China’s leaders.
Although Li has had the right to reside permanently in the United States since late 2016, she chose to remain in China to look after her mother. The Chinese authorities confiscated her passport a few days before her abduction.
Employed by Mirror Media since 2012, Chen at first said nothing about his wife’s abduction because he hoped she would be released. But, after obtaining no news of her, he finally published an open letter to President Xi Jinping on 13 January.
A video was posted on YouTube the next day that showed Li criticizing her husband’s activities in a robotic voice and claiming that she severed contact with him for sentimental reasons. Chen thinks the Chinese authorities kidnapped her in order to dissuade him from continuing his interviews with Guo.
“People are often abducted and held incommunicado by the Chinese authorities nowadays, and there can be little doubt that Li Huaiping was taken hostage to prevent her husband from publishing revelations,” said Cédric Alviani, the head of RSF’s East Asia desk. “We call for her immediate and unconditional release and we urge the international community, especially the US authorities, to put pressure on Beijing.”
Abduction has become official practice in China since Xi Jinping became president in 2013. Called “residential surveillance at a designated place,” it allows the authorities to deprive detainees of their constitutional rights and to subject them to all sorts of abuses including torture, mistreatment and denial of medical care.
China is ranked very near the bottom of RSF's World Press Freedom Index (176th out of 180 countries).