Cover Art by Jason Sweet

TAKING ON CHINA: How I Freed My Husband From Jail

A Memoir by Karen Patterson

In 2010, Karen Patterson’s life is turned upside down. The Canadian is living in Beijing, China, with her family when her husband, Chinese artist Wu Yuren, disappears. Wu and other artists had been protesting against the government of the People’s Republic of China and its lack of regard for human rights. In Karen’s search for Wu, she discovers that he has been beaten and illegally incarcerated. This book, TAKING ON CHINA: How I Freed My Husband from Jail, is about Karen’s fight to get her husband released from the clutches of the Chinese state. Along the way, she realizes Wu’s story is only one out of millions.

PRAISE for Karen’s BOOK:

The artist Wu Yuren found out that China has little tolerance for dissent – and no justice in its courts. Many before and after have made similar, painful discoveries. Not all of these cases make it into the public realm; many acts of defiance are known only to those who suffer, and their families. That’s why it’s important the stories of people like Wu Yuren are told. The world must know about the courage shown by the few who dare stand up to China’s repressive government, and the sacrifices made by their family and friends who seek to free them. Karen Patterson’s book about her attempts to get her husband’s release is not just about the pain experienced by one family, but a window onto a country where freedom is no one’s right.

  • Michael Bristow, Asia-Pacific editor for the BBC World Service

“One of the best things about doing consular work, which means helping Canadians in distress, is the opportunity to learn from how people react in the face of enormous challenges. Karen Patterson is an exceptional teacher. Her courage, unwavering loyalty, fierce intelligence, and fearless determination—which shine through the pages of her book—offered me an example I will never forget. May we all be so lucky as to have a friend like her.”

  • David Mulroney, Canadian Ambassador to China, 2009-2012
Photo by Murray McKenzie

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Additional Photos:

These images depict different events and times regarding the book, Taking on China: How I Freed My Husband from Jail book. All images were taken by by-standers, friends, participants, observers of Wu Yuren and his struggle in China (ca. 2009 to 2011).

Who is Wu Yuren?

Wu Yuren, also known as Dawu, Ah Ren, was born in Jiangsu Province, outside Jintan City in the house his father built out of brick on June 15, 1971. His family was classified peasants up until he was 10 years old, when his father got a job as a factory director inside the city. Life changed a bit for wee Wu, as he would spend his weekdays in the city with his father, and come back to the country house on the weekends to be with his sister and mother. Wu showed an art talent as a 5 year old, and so the family took a risk during the late 70s to find a painting teacher for Wu, blacked out windows in a small shack down the alley. Dawu later went on to study art history, western art, oil painting and design, and to teach for 8 years before leaving Jiangsu and arriving in Beijing in September 2001. His purpose on leaving Jiangsu Province was to develop himself as a conceptual artist, not unlike every other artist in China who leaves the fields and rice paddies to move to Beijing. Shortly after arriving in Beijing, Wu and Miss Karen Patterson met at an underground art exhibition, where they dated and were married in May 2003, at the height of SARS. Miss Hannah WU was born to the Wu family on August 29, 2004, which is Michael Jackson’s 45th birthday (she is his number one fan!!!).

Over the past several years, Wu has taught Chinese art and given lectures on Chinese contemporary art in Calgary, Saskatoon, and Regina. In 2007 he was a full scholar artist in residency at the University of Calgary, Canada. In May 2010, Wu held his first overseas major solo art exhibition at the Tang Ren Contemporary in Hong Kong, during the Internationally acclaimed Hong Kong Art Fair 2010…

More Praise:

“Karen Patterson’s story is one of bravery and resistance, a one-woman struggle against the repressive and Orwellian Chinese state. Anyone who met Karen was inspired by her battle to keep her family together, and to keep her husband Wu Yuren’s case in the public eye after he disappeared into the regime’s prisons. Taking On China is an important first-person account of Karen’s ultimately successful fight.”

  • Mark MacKinnon, Senior International Correspondent, The Globe and Mail

What terror strikes a wife and mother when her husband and father of her infant is thrown in jail without trial for nothing more than protesting the closure of his art studio?

Such dread, fear and confusion – the stuff of dystopian nightmares from Orwell’s pen – we could only imagine until now.

Canadian Karen Patterson’s book ‘Taking on China’ reveals not only her frantic search of local police stations to find out where husband and Chinese artist Wu Yuren was being detained but also her emotional struggle and long bitter fight with a ruthless authoritarian state apparatus to set him free.  

Her book shines a light on the plight of thousands of Chinese who take on the authorities in the name of justice and human rights to free loved ones wrongly detained. Few succeed and fewer still have the luck of a different nationality to tell the world.”

  • Peter Simpson, Editor/Journalist

“This story is more than inspiring.  It’s a heartfelt call to action, proof that even in China one person’s relentless pursuit of justice can make a difference.  To follow Karen step by step as she fights to free her unjustly accused artist husband from prison is to discover just how cruel and random the Chinese justice system can be to its own people. And how necessary it is to stand up for them, as Karen did, whenever we can.”

  • Gillian Steward, Columnist, Toronto Star

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