China Aid Association
|Jiang Tianyong, Zhang Kai, Li Subin|
(Shenzhen, China – Feb. 1, 2011) Two Chinese Christian human rights lawyers who were attempting to travel to Washington, D.C. to participate in a U.S-China human rights forum were barred from leaving the country Tuesday, the men told ChinaAid.
A third lawyer, Zhang Kai, was twice turned back last week. Border control officials said the men were not allowed to leave China because they were “a threat to national security.”
The three were to be part of a six-person delegation hosted by ChinaAid Association for a 10-day visit to Washington during which they were to speak at a human rights forum on Tuesday evening on promoting China’s transition to a civil society and meet with U.S. government leaders and policy makers to brief them about China’s human rights violations, specifically those related to religious freedom.
All three lawyers had traveled from Beijing to the southern city of Shenzhen, hoping to be able to cross the border to Hong Kong. One of them, Li Subin, had been granted a travel permit to Hong Kong, leading to hopes that he might be permitted to enter the former British colony and board a DC-bound flight from there. He and Zhang attempted the crossing last week and were turned back. Zhang tried a second time last week and was again barred.
At 7 a.m. Tuesday, Li and lawyer Jiang Tianyong attempted the border crossing again, but were immediately stopped by border officials who searched the two men’s luggage and also performed an extremely thorough body search of Jiang, Jiang said.
The lawyers asked on what legal grounds they were being banned from overseas travel, and they were told that they were criminal suspects. The officials refused to explain further and told the lawyers to return to Beijing and ask the Public Security Bureau there for the reason.
The men had previously been barred from leaving the country, so this appears to be a long-standing travel restriction. Zhang was invited to attend a lawyer’s training conference in Chicago last July but was not allowed to leave the Beijing airport. Li and Jiang were part of a lawyers delegation to Washington last October to observe the mid-term elections but were stopped at the Beijing and Shanghai airports respectively
“This action represents a very negative policy shift towards human rights defenders and lawyers,” said ChinaAid founder and president Bob Fu. “To deny these lawyers, who are striving to build up the rule of law in China, the opportunity to engage in international exchanges such as what we have organized for them sends a further signal to the international community that the Chinese political leadership is not serious about its international commitment to advance the rule of law in China.”
Three other members of the delegation arrived safely in D.C. on Monday. Only one of them, Li Renbing, is a lawyer. The other two are a pastor, Zheng Leguo, and a legal scholar, Zhang Dajun.