U.S. Needs to Send Strong Message to China on Human Rights | Page 71 | Freedom House

U.S. Needs to Send Strong Message to China on Human Rights

Washington

In light of a troubling wave of disappearances of Chinese activists, Freedom House calls upon U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs Kurt Campbell to formally request visitation with disappeared artist and activist Ai Weiwei, as well as others whose whereabouts are unknown, during his visit to Beijing tomorrow. Freedom House also calls on Campbell and other senior Administration officials to make clear, publicly and privately, that human rights in China are a central issue in the U.S.-China relationship.
 
Since a series of messages calling for a protest-driven “Jasmine Revolution” in China were circulated on the internet in mid-February, the Chinese government has considerably stepped up its repression of free speech and activism online. Over two dozen people have been detained on criminal charges including “inciting subversion,” and at least one blogger who was detained earlier was recently sentenced to 10 years in prison following an unfair trial. Meanwhile, over 30 people have been disappeared through presumed extralegal detention, including prominent lawyers and online activists. According to Chinese human rights groups, another 200 have been placed under house arrest or close surveillance.
 
“Chinese leaders’ blatant disregard for the basic rights of their own citizens not only stands in stark contrast with China’s desire to be accepted as a world power, but it also demonstrates a complete deafness to the demands of all peoples to live in dignity, a sentiment being so clearly expressed right now in the Middle East,” said Paula Schriefer, director of advocacy at Freedom House.
 
Freedom of expression and association in China are severely curtailed, though lawyers, journalists, and netizens continually push the boundaries of permissible speech. In October 2010, the U.S. Congressional-Executive Commission on China published a partial list of nearly 1,500 political prisoners, though estimates of the full toll of those detained in China for their political or religious views are in the tens of thousands. Lengthy prison sentences are not unusual for certain categories of dissidents, such as democracy advocates, Uighurs, Tibetans, and Falun Gong practitioners. However, the current crackdown has swept up many bloggers, writers, and activists who were previously tolerated, and the latest 10-year sentence has raised fears that those now facing charges could be similarly punished.
 
“The U.S., as one of the few countries with the economic might to influence Beijing, needs to step up its game and deliver a clear message to the Communist Party that its actions are a major impediment to strong bilateral relations between the two world powers,” continued Schriefer.   “Such a message will also send an important reminder to China’s activist community that they have not been abandoned by the outside world.”
 
Among the prominent activists currently disappeared and whom Campbell should ask to meet with are:
 
Ai Weiwei (Artist): On April 3, Ai, an outspoken artist and government critic, known for helping design Beijing’s Olympic stadium but then boycotting its opening ceremony, was detained by police authorities at Beijing Capital International Airport before boarding a morning flight to Hong Kong. On the same day, Ai’s wife Lu Qing and eight of his assistants were visited by the police, who raided Ai’s studio, cut off its power supply and confiscated Ai’s computers, discs and notebooks.
Jiang Tianyong and Teng Biao (lawyers): Beijing-based human rights lawyers Jiang and Teng (who also operates well-known microblogs on the banned Twitter service) were abducted in mid-February and have not been heard from since. As they have taken on sensitive religious freedom and free expression cases, they have faced harassment, abduction, and travel restrictions in recent years.
Liu Anjun (activist): Liu is a Beijing-based human rights activist, whose exact date of disappearance is unknown. Among other activities, Liu has organized a charity group dedicated to supporting petitioners in Beijing. He has been subjected to police harassment and enforced disappearances on a number of occasions in the past.
Gu Chuan (author): Gu is a Beijing-based author and human rights activist and has been missing since February 19 when about twenty Beijing policemen searched his home without presenting a search warrant. They confiscated computers, cell phones and books. Gu’s wife has not received any formal detention documents from the police. When searching his home, police said it was related to his using Twitter to repost messages about the “Jasmine Revolution.”
Gao Zhisheng (lawyer): Though not picked up in the current round-up, Gao is one of China’s top human rights lawyers and has been disappeared for nearly a year. Gao was detained in February 2009, held incommunicado and reportedly tortured. He resurfaced in March 2010 following intense international pressure on his behalf, but was taken into custody the following month and has not been heard from. Last week, the United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention called on Beijing to release him.
 
China is ranked Not Free in Freedom in the World 2011, Freedom House's survey of political rights and civil liberties, and Not Free in Freedom of the Press 2010.
 
For more information on China, visit:
 
 
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