As It Happens

Canadian denied entry to China to visit jailed father fears she'll never see him again

It took Montreal's Ti-Anna Wang 10 years to secure a visa to China to visit her ailing father in jail, Chinese dissident Wang Bingzhang.

'The whole point was to lift his spirits, and I feel like this will just crush him,' says Ti-Anna Wang

Wang Bingzhang was a pro-democracy activist who got his doctorate at McGill University in the 1980s. (Reuters)
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A Canadian woman hoping to see her father for the first time in a decade was turned away at the Chinese border Wednesday amid heightened diplomatic tensions between the two countries. 

It took Montreal's Ti-Anna Wang 10 years to secure a visa to China to visit her ailing father in prison, but when she arrived at the Hangzhou airport on Wednesday, she was immediately detained and put on a flight to South Korea. 

"They didn't give us any reason at all. They just told us they were following orders from the minister of state security," Wang told As It Happens host Carol Off.

"This is more agonizing than not giving me the visa at all. It just feels extremely insulting and almost purposeful."

Ti-Anna Wang, centre, is pictured here with her father Wang Bingzhang and her great aunt Wang Ju in Niagara Falls when she was a little girl. (Submitted by Ti-Anna Wang)

Wang's father is Wang Bingzhang, a pro-democracy activist who got his doctorate at McGill University in the 1980s.

He was abducted by Chinese agents during a trip to Vietnam in 2002 and sentenced to life in prison on espionage and terrorism charges.

She last saw him in 2008. When she tried to visit him the following year on a visa, she was denied entry to the country, and has been fighting to get back to him ever since. 

Ti-Anna Wang (centre, in black) holds up a picture of her father, jailed Chinese dissident Wang Bingzhan. (Submitted by Ti-Anna Wang)

Then last year, she finally broke through the red tape, securing a visa on compassionate grounds.

But that was before the arrest of a Chinese telecommunications executive in Vancouver on Dec. 1 sent Canadian-Chinese relations spiralling.

Diplomatic dust-up 

Meng Wanzhou, the CFO of Huawei, was arrested last month at the request of the United States, which wants her extradited to face fraud charges.

China has since detained two Canadians, Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor, accusing them of endangering China's national security, in a move widely seen as retribution for Meng.

"It must be a factor in the decision making," Wang said of the diplomatic tensions. "But at the same time, this exact situation happened to me in 2009."

Global Affairs Canada says it is providing consular assistance to Wang, but noted in an emailed statement that "every country or territory decides who can enter or exit through its borders."

"Our former parliamentary secretary has met with Wang Bingzhang's family to discuss his case, and we remain in contact with the family," spokesperson Guillaume Berube said. 

Meeting his granddaughter 

Wang said she spent the past few months arranging the trip, hoping to introduce her father to his 11-month-old granddaughter.

"This was supposed to be the first time that I see my father after 10 years," she said.

"I had imagined a very profound moment where I could be in a room with my father and my brother and my daughter."

Ti-Anna Wang has not seen her father since 2008. (Submitted by Ti-Anna Wang)

And he was expecting her, she said.

Wang wrote him a letter about her plans, she said, and her half sister told him about the visa during a visit in December. 

"The whole point was to lift his spirits, and I feel like this will just crush him," Wang said.

"Another part of me just feels really terrible about all this because my father doesn't get visits very often. He only sees family members once or twice a year, and I can only assume that he was looking forward to this as much as I was."

Deteriorating health 

Wang said she worries this was her last chance to see her father.

The 71-year-old has served most of his sentence in solitary confinement, where she says he has suffered several strokes, asthma attacks and declining mental health.

"The first thought that I had when they told me that I wasn't going to be able to go was I just wondered if I would ever see my father again," she said.

"I have to believe that I will."

Written by Sheena Goodyear. Interview with Ti-Anna Wang produced by Chris Harbord.

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