Wang Bingzhang, featured in Inside These Walls has a doctorate from McGill, and a family in Montreal, but everyday he wakes up behind bars half a world away. His crime? Being pro-democracy. The political activist has been in a Chinese prison serving a life sentence in solitary confinement for alleged espionage and terrorism since 2002.

And while Bingzhang is a Chinese citizen, his family is in Canada working to get him home alongside the families of many Canadians detained abroad.

Fourteen Hundred Canadians In Jail Abroad

According to Jocelyn Sweet of Global Affairs Canada, “As of August 23, 2016, Global Affairs Canada is currently aware of 1,406 Canadians detained abroad,” the majority of which are in the United States, with the rest scattered through 85 other countries.

While many are arrested for crimes like assault or drug-related offences that are also illegal in Canada, some, like Bingzhang are detained for reasons the Canadian justice system doesn’t recognize. That’s where things get complicated.

The Secretary General of Amnesty International Canada, Alex Neve says that when it comes to international detainees, “Our focus is generally on pretty serious human rights cases,” like those involving torture, or when the punishment is politically motivated, like in Bingzhang’s case.

In Neve’s experience, “there seems to be inconsistency” regarding who gets the help of the government. “It’s very difficult to determine which cases will attract that kind of attention,” he said in a phone interview.

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