Zheng Fong-Zhen and her husband had their first son on May 16, 1985. In 1986, she found out that she was pregnant with their second child. She went into hiding because she feared that the Chinese government would force her to have the baby aborted. Their second son was born on October 26, 1986.
In 1987, Fong-Zhen was told that her mother was very ill. She returned home, knowing that she would risk punishment from the officials. Prosecution started immediately after the officials found out that she had returned. She was questioned relentlessly about where she had been hiding and who had helped her, but she refused to reveal any names. Her punishment was forcible sterilization, a fine (equivalent to $500 U.S. dollars), and the loss of her job in the government-controlled factory.
Her husband had a motorcycle service business (similar to our taxi service), but the prosecution forced him to close his business as well. They were left completely without any means to make a living. So they relied on their extended family's financial support.
During the following years, Fong-Zhen was constantly harassed by the officials, who continued questioning her about where she was during the hiding period. They would not stop questioning her until she revealed all the names of any relatives or friends who helped her. Because of this incessant persecution, Fong-Zhen fled her country, fearing for herself and the people who helped her during her time of hiding.
Her family paid a smuggler $4000 (U.S. dollars). On December 23, 1995, Fong-Zhen boarded an airplane to the United States via Singapore and Thailand.
Fong-Zhen was detained at the airport by the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS), because she had a fake passport. Two agents searched her and took her coat, watch, purse, and $550 (U.S. dollars). They did not give her a receipt. She kept begging them to return her coat because she was so cold without it. Finally one of the agents returned her coat, but kept the rest of her belongings.
Fong-Zhen went before the court in Oakland, California, on January 18 and 25, 1996. She was told that she needed to find a lawyer to represent her and appeal within 10 days. Because the INS agents took her purse, which contained her relative's telephone number, she was unable to call anyone. In addition, she was too afraid to tell the court that she had a relative in the United States. Since Fong-Zhen didn't appeal within 10 days, she was supposed to be sent back to China. However, she was instead sent to the Lerdo Detention Facility near Bakersfield, and has been jailed there since January 26, 1996.
Fong-Zhen emphasized that she fled from China to find freedom from the relentless persecution that she and her family endured from the government. She is pleading for amnesty from the United States government. She still hopes to make this country her home and to someday bring her family here as well.
(This article was based upon interviews conducted by Beth Herblet & Pei-Lin Van't Hul. )