Li Jianfeng, a Senior Judge over an intermediate court’s financial section, was sentenced to 16 years in prison and was released after serving 11 years. During his imprisonment, Li lost everything, including his wife, daughter, and home.
Unlike many others in Li’s profession in China, he was not charged and sentenced for corruption. Ironically, he was persecuted for defending the rule of law and the basic human rights of Chinese citizens. As a Christian and a legal professional, he felt compelled to provide free legal advice to the vulnerable when their rights were arbitrarily violated. As a result, he was arrested for “subversion of state power.”
In early 2013, I received a request for assistance from Li shortly after his release from prison. By the grace of God and many international partners, we were able to quickly rescue him to Thailand through a modern-day “underground railroad.” Over the past two years, my vice president Kody Kness and I made several trips to Thailand to assist in securing Li’s resettlement.
I am thankful to Pastor Hong Yujian and the members of Faith Chinese North American Baptist Church for receiving brother Li with such generosity.
Prominent human rights defense lawyer Zhang Kai, who was interrogated during the July crackdown on lawyers, was taken into custody on Aug. 25, 2015, ahead of a meeting with United States Ambassador-At-Large for Religious Freedom.
At this time, Zhang is under “residential surveillance” and is held in an undisclosed location, commonly referred to as a “black jail.” He will remain there for a total of six months.
Authorities charged Zhang with “gathering a crowd to disturb public order” and the more serious charge of “stealing, spying, buying and illegal providing state secrets and intelligence to entities outside of China.”
Authorities denied Zhang’s lawyer’s and family members’ request to visit him, stating that the seriousness of the intelligence charge means Zhang can have no outside contact.
Some Christians and other Chinese citizens fear that officials might torture Zhang to extract a confession or other evidence; however, because no one can meet with Zhang, there is no way to confirm or deny this suspicion.
Li Jianfeng, a former Senior Judge in China, was granted political asylum in Canada in a coordinated effort by led by China Aid and arrived in Vancouver on Sept. 23. Li served 11 years in a Chinese prison for “subverting state power” after using his position as a judge to aid vulnerable groups and human
Li was released in 2013 after serving 11 years of his original 16-year sentence for charges of “illegal weapon possession” and “subverting state power.” At that time, China Aid began to lead efforts to rescue Li from China, where he faced further reprisal for creating organizations he called “labor alliances.” These “labor alliances” were support networks comprised of business owners, police, judges and human rights defenders that provided aid to socially vulnerable groups and human rights advocates using public and semi-public methods.
Soon after his release, China Aid and others successfully helped Li gain political asylum in Bangkok. During his time in Thailand, Li was visited by many of the individuals who continued to seek Li’s relocation to further safety, including China Aid’s founder and president, Bob Fu, and China Aid’s vice president, Kody Kness.
“… We are so happy to accomplish this long-term rescue mission and finally welcome Judge Li Jianfeng to a land that is free from persecution and fear,” Fu said.
Li arrived safely in Vancouver where he was welcomed by Faith Chinese North American Baptist Church members.
In an exclusive video interview with China Aid, human rights lawyer Gao Zhisheng, who was released last August from a three-year prison term, detailed torture he experienced while in prison in China’s western Xinjiang region.
Gao said he was tortured on three occasions while in prison. After the first incidence, he penned a complaint to the government, expecting his torturers to be charged for their actions; however, during the third session, the same men tortured him again. When Gao fell asleep during one of his torturers’ breaks from beating him, they kicked his head and said, “You heartless creature, you are able to sleep? We haven’t been able to sleep well for two to three days after torturing you, but you can sleep.”
According to Gao, he lived in a seven square meter confinement cell intended for major criminals. Although a person may only legally be kept in a confinement cell for 15 days, Gao was held there for three years.
In his case, Gao asserts that the word “release” should be in quotation marks; he has been under 24/7 supervision even after obtaining his freedom and has been denied access to medical care. He states, “It’s impossible to have real freedom. The Communist Party is a prison. I will never be able to coexist with them under the same sun. All my experiences have made me understand, and they have also repeatedly said to me that I will never have freedom as long as they exist.”
|Family members of prisoners of conscience stand with China
Aid Vice President Kody Kness, right, at a rally on Sept. 25.
China Aid Vice President Kody Kness kicked off advocacy efforts in Washinton, D.C. with speaking events on Sept. 21 and 23 at the Newseum Institue as part of Freedom Week, which highlights the challenges faced by human rights activists and reporters under oppressive governments, specifically China.
Additionally, China Aid hosted a press conference on Capitol Hill on Sept. 23 over “Worsening Religious Freedom Abuse in China under the Xi Administration.” Speakers included Bhuchung Tsering of International Campaign for Tibet, Rebiya Kadeer of the World Uyghur Congress, Kness and Chinese pastors Guo Baosheng and Jonathan Liu.
On the morning of Sept. 25, China Aid cohosted a “Stateless Breakfast” to honor China’s human rights advocate before Xi’s official State Dinner that evening. Former POCs and family members of current POCs gave toasts along with several members of Congress, including Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi, (D-Calif.) and Senator Marco Rubio, (R-Fla.).
Also on Sept. 25, China Aid cohosted a rally outside the White House titled, “Let Freedom Ring for Chinese, Tibetans, Uyghurs and Mongols Rally.”