|about Bernhard Wilden| |study in China| |last stay at home| |last days of his life| |message about his death|
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We received a message from the Chinese Embassy in early October 2007 stating that they would not release to us the security tape saying it was evidence and that it could not leave Beijing. As a consequence, on 13 October I wrote to the embassy asking for a copy of the video only. I also informed the Chinese officials in Beijing that if they could not accommodate this request, we would wish to return to Beijing to study the original film there. We already had planned for my husband to depart for Beijing on 27 November 2007 and so informed the Chinese that at this time we would interested in viewing the original film then.
In follow-up to my letter, my husband telephoned Berlin to inform the Chinese Embassy that he would be returning to China soon and to see what else could be learned about viewing the film during this visit. We were told that the embassy had alerted Beijing about our request but that no response had yet been forthcoming. Once again my husband reminded the embassy of his pending return to Beijing.
My husband again telephoned the embassy at Berlin the day before he was due to depart for China to see if they had any further information to impart. He was told that no response had been forthcoming from Beijing at which news my husband wondered aloud to the embassy employee if he should presume that he most probably would not be permitted to view the film while in China. The embassy confirmed this presumption. This took place on 26 November 2007.
So on the following day my husband left Germany once more for China. We agreed in advance that he would telephone me each day to give me a full report about his activities there.
My husband's first day in Beijing was devoted to seeing the place where our son Bernhard had been found dead. He photographed the building in extensive detail including the staircase, the surveillance camera in place and all of the surrounding area. The area illustrated in the photograph below can only be reached through a gate which is always locked from the midnight hour through to five o'clock in the morning.
My husband walked through the building where Bernard had died very carefully. He was very surprised to see that there were two doors leading to the fire escape stairwell on each floor but that each of these doors were firmly secured by heavy chains and a strong lock and that they could not be opened. He found that it was impossible to enter or to climb up or down these stairs as had been claimed.
My husband also found that the ground floor had two doors as well. The door to the left was also chained in the same way as the others on the floors above. The door to the right of the entrance had no chain. Above this door was affixed the security camera (which is slightly visible in the photograph below) but this entrance led only to the ramp not to the above floors and the camera could only record the ramp access area.
fire stairs, ramp, door, camera
Moreover, the stairs to the first floor (known as the second floor in the United States) was secured by a rusty but sturdy lock and entrance was impossible.
the rusty lock on the fire stairs
After my husband completed his own study of this facility, he next travelled to BLCU where he was suppose to meet with the rector but when he arrived and approached the rector's door he was met, instead, by a woman who was expecting him. After greeting my husband this official called for the staff person that served as liaison with foreign students on campus. All three entered into a discussion in the English language led by my husband. My husband learned that the last person to arrive at this meeting had also been the person called to identify our son after his death. He assured my husband with a clear certainty that Bernhard had no evidence of injury; even his face had been unscathed.
My husband could not understand how this could be so. Bernhard had fallen from a great height, or supposedly so, and so he expressed dismay at how his body had shown no signs of injury of any sort. How could he have fallen, as the Chinese officials claim, with no such injuries?
My husband must have touched these persons with his remarks. He mentioned the existence of a film showing Bernhard's death but that he was not permitted, thus far, to view it. These officials suggested to him that they would inquire about it with the authorities.
My husband was relieved that these talks, in comparison to those of December 2006, were more friendly and supportive.
Once these meetings were behind him, my husband next sought out the priest at the Catholic South Cathedral in Beijing with whom he had spoken in December 2006, but when he arrived there he was told that this priest had been quickly transferred to a church more than 100 miles outside of the city and would leave for his new assignment the following day.
When he left for China my husband carried with him the list of telephone numbers found inside Bernhard's cell phone. He now asked some of those assisting him to contact the persons at these telephone numbers so that he might meet them. Several meetings were quickly arranged for him. He was shocked to find that many of the people that came to meet him did not know that Bernhard had died. Several wept at learning the news. One of those that met my husband informed him that Bernhard had accompanied an unknown person to meetings at a secret, underground church. Another said that she had also attended meetings at such a secret church but that now state law forbade such meetings. This was the only open statement made by this woman. She was evasive when asked many other questions. A third person present at the meeting informed my husband that he believed that Bernhard had written a small pamphlet entitled My Church and I to be used by those Chinese preparing for baptism.
My husband was determined to meet with the priest at the cathedral before he left for his new assignment. He attended his farewell Mass the next day. The church was filled to capacity and as the priest removed his sacred vestments after Mass, many present wept.
On Monday morning my husband returned to the campus to seek out the authorities controlling the video in question. Once admitted, he expressed his feeling as follows: there is much confusion surrounding this video.
My husband had already approached the German Embassy in Beijing for support. He was told by our diplomats that even they had not been given permission to view the film as they had been told that both the responsible authority and his representative were unavailable.
While my husband was in Beijing, I received a telephone call from the Chinese Embassy here in Germany informing me that my husband needed to seek the assistance of the German Embassy in Beijing in order to facilitate obtaining a copy of the video. I informed the Chinese Embassy employee that my husband was already in Beijing that he had already spoken with the German officials there, and that no one has helped them. The Chinese diplomat in conversation with me was doubly surprised-that my husband was already in China and that the German Embassy has yet to succeed in obtain the video. I spoke to my husband informing him of what had transpired at home and once more he returned to our embassy in Beijing. Although the embassy immediately faxed Chinese government authorities, as their diplomat here in Germany suggested to me, nothing positive resulted, but since the German embassy had sent a formal written request, embassy to Chinese government, they could not now ignore this request.
A great deal of time had now passed since my husband entered China and he could not remain there forever. He informed the German Embassy that he would have to return to Germany the next day but also informed our countrymen that he would return to Beijing as soon as permission was granted to view the video.
My husband left China on 6 December 2007 as planned. Within hours of his departure, long before he arrived home in Germany, the Chinese authorities permitted a viewing of the video. News of this permission came through diplomatic channels and the German Embassy.
When my husband returned home he was informed of the decision by the Chinese. As he had just returned home he asked if it was possible to have a copy of the video sent to us in Cologne. An immediate return to China would be difficult. The German Embassy in Beijing sent word that no copies would be possible and that we would have to return if we wished to view the original video. The authorities reminded us through the embassy that it is not customary for ordinary citizens, even foreigners, to review any official police file, including video files. The embassy reminded us that the PSB was making a unique exception in our case, most likely because the request came through the German Embassy in Beijing. A date was set for a private viewing of the film and the Chinese insisted that a German Embassy official be present on 17 December 2007 when the tape would be made available to us.
The German Embassy at Beijing informed us that the Public Security Bureau (PSB) had confirmed the date the film would be showed. This was on the 13th of December. My husband returned to Beijing on 14 December. We knew that the Chinese were being forced to show us the film. We also realized that they were agreeing to a date to do so which permitted them sufficient time to prepare the video they wished for us to see!