Just a few days after Thanksgiving came a gift we have been praying for daily over the past six months: the release from jail of our friend and our part-time maid (“ayi” in Chinese), a kind mother from Anhui province whose plight I discussed in an earlier post, “An Ayi for an Eye,” back in July when I thought she was about to be released.
After being accused of being part of a fight that blinded a man, she has spent nearly six months in jail under harsh conditions. After five months without the normal or common opportunity for bail, her
case was about to be scheduled for hearing by a court, but the judge
recognized that the evidence was weak. He gave the local police a month
to update their evidence. I am not sure how that went, but suddenly this
week our maid was released and given a certificate saying that the was
innocent. How grateful I am that she has been released!
It is so good to see that the Chinese legal system here can recognize when a possible mistake has been made by local police and can free a prisoner that the police have accused. The quality of judges here and the professionalism of many in the system has advanced greatly, I understand. But six months is a long time to be in a place with very limited conveniences and perhaps not the best food in town. She is very thin now and quite weak, but is hoping after some recovery to get back to work soon. We will be going to dinner with them in a few days, after she rests a little more. It will be so good to see her again. Her husband and son are so relieved to finally have mom back!
Why was she in jail? Based on what I understand from reports from her family and the attorney, she was at a mahjong parlor when a fight broke out involving the boss of the parlor, a parlor that had an illegal gambling operation of some kind with a slot machine. Our maid was there to play mahjong, not the slot machine that the boss had in a side room.
It was in the side room where the fight broke out when a woman from her table, a relative, went in to play and won some money that the gambling boss reused to pay. The argument became a fight, aided with a man from our friend’s table. From what we understand, our maid tried to break up the fight and protect an aunt of hers who was being punched by the boss, but she may have been thrown under the bus by the boss and the angry man who may have been the one who delivered the blows that blinded an eye. Our friend, according to her account and supported by other evidence according to her attorney, was not part of the fight.
I can speculate that both the victim (the mahjong boss) and the apparent perpetrator would have reasons in their statements for expanding the group of people involved, one to expand the list of people who could be forced to pay the huge compensation he was seeking (1.2 million RMB) and one to dilute his personal responsibility. In any case, one could say that by acting to help protect a woman being punched by a man, our maid got wrongly accused of a crime and was thrown into a holding facility. The local police of Huangpu District appeared to take a harsh stance against our maid and would not even offer bail. My experience with the Huangpu police has been very positive — they once came to my home within about 10 minutes after I reported the loss of an iPad that I thought was stolen (my bad!), and were extremely friendly and professional, and they have done a great job in making downtown Shanghai such a safe place. I respect our local police in many ways. So I was puzzled about the seemingly harsh stance against our maid. Perhaps out of excessive sympathy for the injured boss? In any case, after one month, the Chinese system requires review of the reasons for holding, and they continued to pressure for her to be held in jail even though the evidence against her was weak. I was so disappointed that she had to remain incarcerated until her case came up for a hearing, which often takes about six months. Fortunately, the judge over the hearing saw the problem, questioned the reasons for imprisonment, and let her go home, innocent. Justice at last!
Our daily prayers now include a relative of a good friend who I strongly believe was falsely accused of domestic violence by her own husband and is wrongly in jail. It’s an even more troubling case but there is powerful evidence for her that I hope will swiftly resolve her case. I cannot say more at this point.
China has made so much progress in so many ways, but as in any country, there can be painful problems from the bad behavior of some individuals. Justice can be found, but it may be slow. And prayers can be answered, but months or years may be needed. Keep praying and keep China in your prayers.