China cracks down on human rights attorneys

By June 17, 2009

China (MNN) — China is cracking down on attorneys who defend human rights and religious freedom. It recently declined to renew the licenses of 21 attorneys, forcing them to discontinue practicing law.

“Some were even beat up,” said Bob Fu, president and founder of China Aid Association. “Some were kidnapped; more were harassed, including two attorneys who traveled to Guangxi province in May. They were even handcuffed when they were meeting their clients, and they were held in a police station.”

Three of the attorneys have called China Aid and requested support from the international community. This is a step they don’t normally take, Fu explained.

“They usually tried every way to walk a fine line within the framework of the Chinese law, but this time after many of their colleagues were beaten and lost their license, they said the Chinese government already broke the bottom line by forcing them to fight to survive to earn a living,” he said.

Many of these attorneys have been working with China Aid to protect religious freedom in China.

“These human rights lawyers
actually should be rewarded for their brave, active efforts in promoting the rule of law and advancing citizens’ civil and human rights, according to both the international standard and China’s own constitution,” Fu said. “And it’s really ironic to see that the rights of the rights attorneys are now in jeopardy.”

One of the lawyers, Gao Zhisheng, predicted that human rights attorneys would become human rights cases themselves. Chinese officials kidnapped him on February 4, and no one has seen him since.  On May 18, Zhou Wenzhong, China’s ambassador to the U.S., released a letter concerning Gao in response to a March letter from U.S. senator Brian Dorgan and U.S. congressman Sander Levin, chairman and co-chairmen of the Congressional-Executive Commission on China.

“Gao received a three-year sentence, with five years probation, and one year deprivation of political rights on December 26, 2006 for violation of the Criminal Law,” stated the key paragraph of Zhou’s letter. “He is currently serving probation. The public security authority has not taken any mandatory measure against him.”

The ambassador’s letter was the first official letter the Chinese government has released since Gao’s disappearance February 4.  Unfortunately, the letter did not take any responsibility for his well-being or for his circumstances.

“This is very misleading,” Fu said. “It is a blatant attempt to cover up the truth of Mr. Gao’s kidnapping and a refusal to release his current whereabouts or conditions. So if Mr. Gao is currently on probation, we’re asking, where is he now? And if he’s not under any mandatory measure against him, what’s the condition of Mr. Gao in his current si tuation?”

The claim that the PSB “has not taken any mandatory measure against” Gao is ridiculous, Fu said. Many eyewitnesses from Gao’s family and hometown saw him kidnapped. He urged Christians to sign a petition in support of Gao at Over 93,800 people have
already signed the petition, and 350,000 e-mails have been sent to the Chinese government.

“God is still in control and, He is sovereign. And despite of all the non-stop persecution in the past 60-some years under the Communist rule, the
Christian faith has never been stronger, and the revival has never been stronger in China,” Fu said.

China’s government may try to make it look like it doesn’t persecute Christians, Fu said, but the persecution is actually getting worse.

“The situation of the human rights in China has been deteriorating rapidly,” he explained. “It is a very difficult situation, despite the
Chinese government claims that Chinese citizens are enjoying golden time in religious freedom. There are hundreds, perhaps thousands, who are still in the Chinese labor camps and prisons for their faith in Jesus.”

Fu encouraged Christians to support the church in China. “We really call upon the international community, the Christian community, as well as the Western democracy governments to step up their pressure and pray for those brave Christian attorneys and human rights lawyers to help secure their release,” he said. “And we call upon the Chinese government to [execute] their spirit of the rule of law by restoring the license of these human rights attorneys, and end their harassment and abuse.”

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