Support Chinese Human Rights Activists, Freedom House Tells Obama on Eve of Visit

Washington

It is critical that President Barack Obama emphasize the importance of human rights and democratic standards during his visit to China later this week, Freedom House said today.
 
As President Obama visits the country for the first time, human rights are a vital topic that must be raised with China’s President Hu Jintao in addition to planned discussions on key trade, security, and environmental issues.  In particular, Freedom House is calling on President Obama to urge the release of several activists who have worked to advance accountable governance and greater freedom, but have faced severe repression by the authorities as a result.
 
“We strongly implore President Obama to use this occasion to advance the cause of human rights by recognizing peaceful activists and the critical work they are doing to create a more accountable China,” said Jennifer Windsor, Freedom House’s executive director. “The U.S. has a relationship with China’s people, not just its ruling party, and this is an ideal opportunity to show that our country stands on the side of grassroots efforts to advance freedom, justice, and the well-being of millions of Chinese citizens.”
 
Freedom House urges President Obama to raise the names of the following six individuals who have been the subject of intense repression by the Chinese Communist Party and to urge their immediate release from custody. They come from all corners of society and are working on a variety of issues to increase accountability, transparency, and justice in China.
  • Liu Xiaobo:  Liu, a prominent Beijing  writer and intellectual, has been in custody since December 8, 2008, for his involvement in drafting Charter 08, a manifesto calling for multiparty democracy, a free press, and an independent judiciary. In June 2009, Liu was formally charged with “inciting subversion of state power.” If convicted, he could face up to fifteen years in prison.
  • Gao Zhisheng: A leading civil rights lawyer and Nobel Peace Prize nominee, Gao was abducted by Chinese security forces in February 2009 after publishing a detailed account of the severe torture he had experienced during a previous detention. Gao had defended coal miners, factory workers, dissidents, and persecuted religious believers until he was disbarred in 2005 for taking such cases. His current whereabouts are unknown.
  • Hu Jia: Hu Jia, an AIDS and human rights activist, as well as winner of the European Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought, was sentenced to three and a half years in prison in April 2008 for publishing online articles critical of the government and giving interviews to foreign media. He suffers from liver disease and his health has reportedly deteriorated in custody.
  • Xu Na: Xu Na, a poet and a painter, was detained in January 2008 with her husband, Beijing musician Yu Zhou, for possessing Falun Gong-related literature. Yu died in custody 11 days later under mysterious circumstances. Xu was sentenced in November 2008 to three years in prison after an unfair trial because of her identity as a Falun Gong believer.  She had reportedly been tortured during a previous detention and is at risk of abuse.
  • Tan Zuoren: Tan, a grassroots activist from Sichuan province, was detained in March 2009. Tan was working with others to compile a list of children who died in the May 2008 earthquake and investigate allegations that their schools collapsed due to shoddy construction. His trial, held in August 2009, was marred by blatant irregularities. If convicted, he could face up to five years in prison.
  • Wang Bingzhang: Wang founded the pro-democracy magazine “China Spring” and two overseas Chinese democratic parties. He was sentenced in 2003 to life imprisonment, one of the harshest sentences ever levied on a political prisoner in China. He was charged with espionage and “terrorism” in a trial that was held in secret, lasted less than a day, and at which no evidence of his alleged crimes was presented. He is currently imprisoned in Shaoguan prison, Guangdong province.
In China, where peaceful political activity is severely restricted, media are censored, and religious freedom is sharply limited, thousands of other citizens aiming to promote these basic human rights have also been harassed, arrested, or physically assaulted. In October, the U.S. Congressional-Executive Commission on China published a partial list of political prisoners containing over 1,200 names.
 
To learn more about China, read:
 
 
Freedom House, an independent nongovernmental organization that supports the expansion of freedom in the world, has been monitoring political rights and civil liberties in China since 1972.
 
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Freedom House is an independent watchdog organization that supports democratic change, monitors the status of freedom around the world, and advocates for democracy and human rights.

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