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December 2010 - four years on

22nd December 2010 was the fourth anniversary of our son's death - time for a brief retrospect.

In 2010 German chancellor Merkel visited China again, once more reminding of the adherence of human rights. For me, this trip was a reason to write a letter to her, as reality is often able to support well-meant speeches. However, it didn't come as a surprise to me that this letter never actually reached Dr Angela Merkel but was instead passed on to the Foreign Office where it was brushed off in quite a friendly way.

I was told that since Bernhard's father's visit to Beijing in 2007 there hadn't been any new findings concerning the death of our son. The Chinese administration still considered external man-induced injuries impossible and had therefore closed their investigations.

Quite surprising, we had never actually heard of any investigations focusing on what had really happened. On the contrary, a certificate of death was signed stating a cause of death that simply can not be true. The Chinese must have felt safe - they didn't have to worry about Bernhard's parents or anyone else being able to carry out detailed inquiries which could possibly prove these particulars as (at least) highly doubtful.

From the very beginning the German embassy didn't offer any support either that surpassed the standardized procedure after any death of a German citizen in a foreign country.

Two days after we had received the dreadful news of our son's death on the 24th December, my husband flew to China at the earliest opportunity. He was only given a visa for three days, and when he returned to Germany he might have been given his son's ashes - but no information whatsoever about what had really happened. This meant we had to take the matters into our own hands and try to find out the truth despite the strongest resistance.

Keeping this in mind, the reaction of our Secretary of Foreign Affairs at that time is quite remarkable. I had informed him about our case, hoping to be offered any kind of help or support by the Foreign Office. On 11th January 2007 we received a letter/mail in which we were told that the German embassy would send us further information of any kind whenever there was “any new development”.

Did Steinmeier really believe that one day somebody would just stop by in the German embassy and tell them what really happened that day?

Nevertheless, there still turned out to be some new development - certainly not because the German embassy sent us further information but because of our own efforts. The Chinese officials got caught in contradictions. In the certificate of his death it is written that our son was found dead. When my husband talked to the Public Security Bureau on 17th December 2007, the Chinese, however, when defending themselves finally admitted that our son was still alive when he was found and that he died in the hospital. What is the reason for these contradictory statements? Even today (four years later) it would still be possible to find an explanation. But apart from us - Bernhard's parents - nobody seems to be interested in this.

We have put all our efforts in finding out what happened to Bernhard and did everything that was possible for us both in China and in Germany.

On 5th May 2007 I wrote a letter to the Chinese Prime Minister Wen Jiabao. A few days later I was sent a letter from the Chinese ambassador in Berlin explaining that in Beijing there would exist a video that might answer some of our questions.

First of all it turned out to be very difficult to be allowed to see this video but after a long period of discussion it was eventually shown to my husband (actually there were two videos, each of quite a short duration). Although they were said to explain Bernhard's death, they didn't explain anything and weren't convincing at all. The Chinese weren't aware of the fact that my husband had found out about the place where our son was found dead. He knew the surroundings and therefore knew that these videos could impossibly have been recorded by surveillance cameras the way they were. They were contradictory and unreal. The only reason that we aren't able to prove that they are a fake is that we didn't get a hold on one of the copies despite our most urgent requests. Why did they refuse to hand them to us if they were originals that could be verified?

We don't know how our son died. We only know that it wasn't the way the Chinese want to make us believe. What we were able to prove is two facts: neither did our son fall down a great height (as it was claimed in the certificate of his death), nor did he bleed to death. In the meeting with the Public Security Bureau they could have answered my husband's urging questions about what caused the great loss of blood which eventually is claimed to have lead to Bernhard's death - but like in many other cases they didn't answer any of our questions.

Since there has never been an autopsy, we consider the statement that he bled to death as some kind of protective statement by the Chinese officials to avoid inquiries into the cause of his death. Obviously it would have served them well if the case had been put on file without further ado. They never expected anyone to conduct investigations which inconvenienced them immensely and which they have tried to sabotage ever since.

A lot of questions have remained unanswered: How can it be possible that there has never been an autopsy in the case of an unsolved death? How is it possible that there has neither been an official (police) report nor a hospital documentation to read? How is it possible that we have never been shown a picture of our dead son? How is it possible that the Chinese administration refused to transport our dead son's body to Germany but rather warned us to confiscate it in case we kept insisting in our rights? What have they tried to keep secret by these great efforts?

In the future Dr Merkel will quite generally confine her possible visits to China to remind her audience of the adherence of human rights. The example of a single case in which she should demand further investigations would obviously be unwanted. However, our inquiries will never cease, they will be continued for the rest of our lives. We are aware of the fact that so far all our efforts to find out the whole truth have not been successful because the common interest of both sides, the German as well as the Chinese, has been to avoid the case “Bernhard Wilden” becoming a case of public interest. Although the sympathy of both the German and the Chinese administration might be real - their shared (political) interests, however, still seem to be much more important than the search for the truth.

Bernhard will always be present for us.

This year we found somebody who helped us plan and design a memorial for our son and who also built it.

On the right you can read Bernhard's name in Chinese.


Below on the left:

You will always be in our hearts

On the right:

Your course is eternal and your ideals and your actions will live on forever

Cologne, in December 2010

Regina Wilden, mother of Bernhard Wilden