December 10, 2009
December 10, 2009
BEIJING–On Wednesday, December 9th (Beijing time), U.S. Ambassador Jon Huntsman met with five human rights defenders from 4:30 PM to 6 PM inside the U.S. Embassy in Beijing, all of whom visited the U.S. this fall. Throughout their tour, Jiang Tianyong, Li Fangping, Zhang Kai, Wang Guangze, and Dai Jinbo spoke out on the unjust treatment of Chinese human rights lawyers by the government, and raised awareness the minority cases they continue to defend. Veteran Attorney Jiang Tianyong even appealed to the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission, asking American Embassy officials to meet with human rights lawyers in Beijing on a more regular, frequent basis.
Each lawyer and legal scholar has personal experienced repression for their work. Earlier this year, more than 22 Christian human rights lawyers lost or were denied their licenses to practice law–including Jiang Tianyong. Jiang, upon his return to China, was harassed for attempting to meet with President Obama during the U.S. leader’s trip to Beijing. He and famed legal scholar Dr. Fan Yafeng were questioned and held for over an hour after their attempt, then escorted to their homes and held under surveillance. Jiang Tianyong was detained the next day, his wife beaten, and their daughter interrogated at school. Dr. Fan was dismissed this fall from the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, purportedly for “political reasons.” Human rights lawyer Zhang Kai was detained and beaten this spring for representing a minority case, and both he and Li Fangping are currently representing appeals for the highly sensitive Linfen Church case in Shanxi.
The U.S. Ambassador’s meeting comes at a crucial time for human rights defenders in China. In their 90-minute meeting held in the Ambassador’s office, Ambassador Huntsman asked the lawyers’ advice for the upcoming human rights dialogue. All of the participants urged that religious freedom is the most important issue at stake. One lawyer pointed out to the Ambassador that the house church in China has the healthiest presence of all the religious movements, which makes it difficult for the Chinese government to suppress.
The lawyers specifically mentioned the severe sentence of Uyghur Christian Alimujiang Yimiti and the Linfen Church case.
Also, it was pointed out to the Ambassador, that given the recent articles in some Chinese government papers defending house churches, there are different opinions within government leadership circles on this issue. Some input could help shift the opinion in favor of more freedoms. The Ambassador concluded that he had learned a lot from the lawyers and expressed his hope that they could continue to have these meetings.
“This timely meeting–during Ambassador Huntsman’s first year in his position, and in a year of such increased pressure on these brave human rights defenders–gives the world hope for increased attention to rights defense work in China,” said Bob Fu, President of ChinaAid. “We, too, look forward to these future meetings on regular basis with the U.S. Embassy in Beijing. We hope the U.S. will continue to be a beacon of freedom in China.”
Hear Jiang Tianyong’s appeal on behalf of the human rights lawyers in China: