3. A Divorce Remote-Controlled by a Chinese in a Remote Border Town in China
Author: Gang Xu, Ph.D. Posted on 12/06/2019
Supposedly, my divorce should be a simple one. But the complexity associated with my ex-wife’s family doomed my effort to end a wrong marriage into a fatal struggle. As I reflect, my case encapsulates every element in the last two decades of U.S.—China relationship, epitomizing the humanity crisis that is facing a great many Americans now, consequent to the fusion of the darkest sides of the two countries.
To be clear, she, the ex-wife, is not a bad person. I met her in late 2012 when she was looking for a service to guide her daughter to transfer to a different private boarding high school. Earlier in the fall, she had brought her daughter from Shanghai to attend a newly-founded school in the Greater Boston area. They decided to transfer out on the first day reporting to school. She had stayed in Boston to work on the matter. That is how it all started.
In May 2013, I visited her mother at Shanghai and a week later her second older sister in a China-Vietnam border town where her sister ran a grocery store chain. Her sister had been supporting her and assuming a father’s role in her daughter’s upbringing.
In the visit, her sister divulged her other identity: an intelligence operative posted on the border. Her sister was connected to a Houston-based man who, as her sister specified, was on the Chinese intelligence service Ministry of State Security.
When my ex-wife and her daughter reported to school in fall 2012, they were accompanied by her sister and her sister’s Houston friend. It was this friend, according to the ex-wife, who suggested the transfer-out from the school, which was uniquely enriched with international students from Vietnam in its inaugural class.
Later I learned that affiliation of the family with the Chinese intelligence community could be traced to her mother, a veteran of Chinese civil war who was among a special group of soldiers that tended and monitored Tibetan spiritual leader the Dalai Lama when Chinese communist army occupied Tibet in 1950’s. In the early Chinese communist system, such special groups were listed under the political protection bureau, which was the precursor of China’s intelligence services.
In spite of such a background, I was not too concerned. It was the years when U.S.-China relationship appeared so rosy, literally analogized to a “marriage” by then China’s Vice Premier Wang Yang. Many children or grandchildren of top Chinese leaders were studying in prestigious colleges or private high schools in the U.S. It was not a secret that some Chinese trainees in our best government schools were of very interesting backgrounds.
In December 2014, I married her in Boston. Her daughter soon revealed that her aspiration was to join the army and pursue a career in the U.S. military.
Though no one seemed to be serious about cold war stuff, common sense dictated that I kept certain distance from her sister and her sister’s friends in the U.S. I did not offer to fly to California to meet her sister when her sister came to visit Silicon Valley in the summer of 2015. It was on that visit that her sister made an arrangement which, when I learned about it on October 16, 2015, stunned me so much and precipitated my decision to exit the marriage.
But I did not pursue a divorce right away. Her daughter was in the final dash for her college application. In my email to my ex-wife, I told her, firmly and soberly, my decision to divorce and pledged my efforts to minimize the impact on her daughter. To avoid anything emotional, I soon left our apartment home and went back about once a week, usually on a weekend, to do laundry and prepare a week’s load of food.
Into May 2016, I saw it a good window for us to finish the divorce: her daughter was admitted to MIT and I resumed my business that had slowed down for the marriage; we were both in some kind of break before the next busy cycle. I was hoping that we would shortly move on with our own lives and orbits. As her attorney stepped in, however, the divorce talk quickly escalated to a contest by June. I was accused of domestic abuses and the first court hearing scheduled for August 17.
I tried, but in vain, to reach her sister’s boyfriend and her daughter, to ask them to help mediate a settlement in early June. On or about June 22, 2016, I had an unexpected visitor in my office, a young man who spoke perfect English but with an accent of Boston traditional Chinese-American community; clearly he was looking for something else but disguising himself as a prospective client. I became alerted.
One thing I was never mistaken: I was dealing with her sister in all the divorce talks and her sister had a tough personality. In my 2013 visit, her sister boasted that Chinese intelligence operations in the U.S. had gained the ability of rigging U.S. courts and could easily fix a Chinese American in a civil case. In China, it is not rare that intelligence resources, including local triads, could be activated even for private purposes by those who have the access to such a national instrument.
In retrospect, I did one of the most correct things in my life. I filed an unusual counterclaim to the family court, 21 pages long and single spaced, detailing her family background and my interactions with them; it would be a dated, written document for law enforcement if something terrible happened to me.
Of course such a counterclaim was too unorthodox. At the end of the hearing on October 5, 2016, Judge Maureen Monks directed me to submit a short counterclaim following the established format. While she kept my original counterclaim in the folder, she removed the attached exhibits and gave them to a clerk sitting across from me, asking her to pass them along to me.
I bent over, extending my hand towards the clerk.
In a totally unexpected move, the clerk hit the table sharply with her fingers, demanding that I pick up the exhibits from her other side, the side I was unable to reach from my position.
“Lisa!” The judge called out, automatically and disapprovingly, if my recollection is correct.
My body and hand were petrified, suspended in the air. Somehow, my subconscious was hoping that the judge would defuse the situation and say something soft, like “Lisa, just pass them to him.”
It never came.
I awkwardly rounded the other party in the crowded courtroom, walked to the spot where we waited to report our appearances before the hearings, turned, and moved slowly to the clerk, one step, two steps…
Her eyes glistened with burning excitement and joy, her face radiated a whiff of cold, teasing, condescending and sinister smile that I could feel pulsed with her expiration; she impressed me like a predator, calculating and playing its prey just before delivering a lethal strike.
I looked up over her, Judge Maureen Monks turned her head away and looked up into the window, trying to contain her amusement and pretending nothing had ever happened.
I still couldn’t figure out what really triggered the clerk to be so mean and egregious. But I know such a nasty thing in front of a boss does happen in a workplace from time to time. Almost unexceptionally, it embodies two messages: First, the staffer believes he/she is doing exactly what the boss truly wants, so it is a reflection of a boss’ “true color” as perceived among his/her own people; second, the lower staffer usually takes it as a show to get the attention of his/her boss, often in an institution with a ruthless pecking order.
In the latter regard, it is interesting that somehow I had already been told by someone that the clerk was a “tempo” there in my first hearing on August 17.
On October 25, I made the request for a copy of the tape for either of my first two hearings at Middlesex County Probate and Family Courts. For the October 5 hearing tape, I specifically instructed to include the last fragment involving the clerk Lisa. A week later, I received one copy. The copy for October 5 hearing cuts out at 11:07:01 am, precisely curtailing the recording of abuse and harassment by Judge Monk’s clerk.
For the August 17 hearing tape, it was marked “CAN NOT Find” on the returned request form.