Marc Curtis, friend of Janny
How we met, and why I founded this organization
I’ve been traveling to China since 2006 to see what business opportunities might exist. After many meetings with Chinese businesses and high-level government officials in Shanghai and Beijing, I was invited to direct and shoot a documentary film about the ancient city of Kashgar. After the earthquake in Wenchuan, Sichuan Province, the government realized they needed to reinforce the mud homes that housed 200,000+ Uyghur Muslims. Kashgar gets hit with a major earthquake every 100 years, and it was long overdue. These homes are completely leveled after each catastrophe. “Kashgar: Pearl of the Silk Road” tells the story of the people, and how the government is attempting to protect them and the local culture.
In 2011, I decided to live in Guangdong Province (north of Hong Kong), teach English, and continue my pursuit of business interests. One day while riding the subway in Guangzhou I received a message on the WeChat app from a young woman who asked if I could help her improve her English. We chatted for a few weeks, then met for dinner. Over the next two months, we met several times and helped each other with language. Janny became a very good friend. In September of 2012, she told me she would be going to Vietnam to bring back some clothing samples that a customer of her fashion business wanted. He paid for her trip and gave her a small salary of $400-usd. She was to meet the customer’s assistant, a Thai woman, who would bring the samples to her. Janny was enjoying the first 7 days of her time in Hanoi and sent photos to me of the sights she saw while touring around Hoan Kiem Lake. I asked her when she would return to China and she replied, “about 3 more days.”
That was the last time I heard from Janny. A week after she was supposed to be back in Guangzhou, I began sending her messages but never received replies. After two months, I stopped sending messages. One month later she suddenly appeared online. She asked if I knew who she was and if I knew she had gone to Vietnam. She said she couldn’t remember anything about the trip. A few weeks later, I discovered that it wasn’t Janny messaging me…it was her sister Youki who explained that she was trying to find the man who sent Janny to Vietnam and that Janny had been arrested on drug trafficking charges.
I met with Youki and her brother to discuss the situation. They put me in touch with her lawyer in China, who told me as much as he could about the case, but couldn’t tell me some things that the police had required him to withhold. The information was disturbing. Then in February of 2013 I joined the family and attorney in Hanoi for the sentencing hearing. The night before the hearing we sat in a small restaurant until 1:00am and the lawyer told me more details that he had just learned that day. Read the “Current Situation” page for more details.
I was fortunate to visit Janny in prison six months later. Only family members are allowed inside to visit, but the attorney and guard captain knew each other and allowed me 15 minutes. Janny was surprised to see me there and broke into tears. I let her know that I believed in her innocence and would not give up trying to get her set free. As of this writing, September 2017, Janny has been unjustly incarcerated for 5 years. We can only communicate occasionally through her family members, as visitation and even letters are not allowed.
One final note. I don’t harbor any ill-feelings toward Vietnam. They have been doing what they can to stop drug trafficking in and out of their country. My hope is that they will review her case and realize that she was tricked by traffickers, and grant her amnesty soon. Janny doesn’t deserve to suffer any further.
I won’t give up on my friend.